Theological integrity has almost disappeared in most professing evangelical churches. My personal experience is that theological integrity has been replaced with pragmatic programs in many evangelical churches. I’ve been criticized, ridiculed, and ostracized, but even so I’ll continue to teach, write and defend biblical Christianity.
To put this in simpler terms, the word “theological” refers to theology which is a study and understanding of God and “integrity” is simply being honest. Now we must ask the question. Are you being honest about God? Theological integrity refers to “holding fast the pattern of sound words.” Theological integrity embraces the full counsel of God. Ultimately the believer will have a passion unto death to know and worship the triune God with theological integrity. Theological integrity must never be taken lightly, yet churches of every stripe abandon theological integrity for the greener grass of management, therapy, and a program for every occasion.
The visible church has always been challenged by false doctrine. Satan has provoked and planted in the minds of men through all ages the idea that “certainly God didn’t mean it.” God ordained a people to be His, but I hear people say “surely God didn’t mean it. I don’t believe in the doctrine of predestination. I believe man has a free will. I know what the Bible says, but….!”
There must be a reason for the lack of theological integrity in the church. Jesus warns the church. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). Paul, the seasoned pastor, warned the church at Ephesus.
For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. (Acts 20:27-30)
The savage wolves may come in the form of celebrated religious leaders and celebrity television preachers or the pastor in a small country church. The only way to know if he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing is to know the full counsel of God and compare it to his preaching and teaching. When I hear about worship practices that are unbiblical, theological integrity is the first thing that comes to my mind. When I hear about unbiblical evangelism, theological integrity comes to mind. Why has this happened? There may be many reasons for a lack of theological integrity, but I would postulate that it begins in seminaries and then passed on to the churches. It may be the lack of training that results in a lack of theological integrity. It is likely that a bad pulpit will produce a bad pew.
It is very clear that from the Bible that the pastor has been charged with the responsibility of “equipping the saints for the work of ministry.” This is not a complicated passage, but every Christian ought to compare Ephesians 4:11-16 to Ezekiel 33:1-11. The saints must know how to serve in the church and the consequences for a pastor who fails to prepare the saints for the work of service. What kind of service or ministry is Paul talking about? Is he talking about serving as a Sunday School teacher? Certainly not, because there is not any evidence in Scripture that the monster we call Sunday School is a biblical concept. Before you descend on me with all the fury you can muster, I’m not saying the Bible does not require teaching. I am saying that the way we do it in the contemporary church is unbiblical. The pastor is required to instruct the congregation. The elders are to assist in this serious endeavor. The male head of the family is supposed to take responsibility in explaining and instructing his own family just as the pastor has prepared him. It is not the duty of a youth director to instruct Junior High age children. If we use this programmatic approach to ministry, we might need to examine our sensitivity to theological integrity.
What else might I say to convince whoever might be reading this short monograph, that theological integrity is absolutely necessary to the Christian religion. Jesus believed theological integrity was/is important (John 8:44-47). Pastors are expected to maintain theological integrity (James 3:1). The local church is the repository for theological integrity (1 Timothy 3:15). If you take a stand for theological integrity, criticism and ridicule may come your way. If you are a pastor and you depend on the church for your financial support, you may be required to choose between theological integrity and your income. It’s a tough decision.