Balancing Doctrine & Discernment
Today's lesson comes from the pen of Neal Pollard, a faithful preacher of the gospel of Christ. I have only made some minor edits in an attempt to make Neal's excellent work below even better.

Let us begin with this truth: the doctrine of Christ is indispensable! Timothy was told - "Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you" (I Tim. 4:16). On the "soul-saving" front, many have attempted to water down the message. Sadly, some members of the church have sought to defuse a gospel sermon or Bible class, taught kindly but firmly, by apologizing to their non-Christian visitors for the distinctive message of the New Testament. If a candidate for baptism must be won through such conniving or coddling, he or she will be converted to the wrong person or thing--not to the Lord.

Having said that, let it also be observed that doctrine must be balanced with an intelligent--even sensitive--approach to soul winning. By "sensitive" is meant, not the paranoid fear of offending which has yielded the political correctness currently distorting the American mind, but a clear awareness of those whom we are trying to win to Christ. By "intelligent" is meant particularly using the common sense with which God equipped us to use wisdom in winning souls (Prov. 11:30 - "He who wins souls is wise"). Consider these three points pertaining to discernment:

1. Use Discernment to Get Them "In The Door."
That necessitates being approachable, living in such an exemplary way that people recognize a distinctiveness about you, being friendly, and being bold enough to offer an invitation. If you try to mow them over with doctrine before you lay a foundation of trust and genuine concern, they will "turn you off" on the subject. You must also "be hospitable" (I Pet. 4:9). Put an "open door" upon the hinges of your home--a warm and welcoming place that provides you with an avenue to attract them to the idea of Christian entertainment, Christian family, and Christian living. In order to do this successfully, you must be cautious as to what you call "fun," (cf. Psa. 101:3), you must watch how you interact with people (cf. Prov. 17:1), and you must "walk" carefully at all times (cf. Col. 4:5). "Clean fun," genuine concern, and agape love demonstrated before people will get them in the door and create opportunities to teach.

2. Use Discernment While They are "Inside."
When people visit the assemblies, see them as magnets. Build a desire to want to make them feel "at home." This may not initially be comfortable for you. But, let no one blame God for not making contact with visitors. Too many say, "It is not in my personality to 'go up' to others." If that is so, modify your personality. I've seen shy, quiet people whose love of souls moved them out of their "comfort zone." Also, if you are in a teaching or preaching position, speak the truth in love (cf. Eph. 4:15). It is never necessary to be insulting or belligerent in plainly presenting the gospel message in a firm manner. Many circumstances where we have been eager to call a person or religious group by name would have been more effective, without compromising, by attacking the person's positions or the group's doctrine. Ad hominem attacks are not valid or helpful. This is not to say that identifying false teachers by name or organization is always wrong (the Lord Himself did such; e.g., Matt. 23; Rev. 2:15), but it is not always the most expedient course of action. Watch how you interact with others--there is no place for bullies in the Lord's church (cf. III John 9-11). An obnoxious comment or rudeness, to whomever it is directed, may forever shut a door that would otherwise be open! Use more self-control in your dealings with everyone (cf. II Tim. 3:3).

3. Use Discernment After They Have Become Part of the "Household."
Remember, babies cannot eat meat. There needs to be Bible classes appropriate for growing spiritual babes (cf. I Pet. 2:2). Also, exercise patience liberally (cf. I Thess. 5:14). There should be considerably greater intolerance for the social drinking, dancing, cursing, doctrinally distorted views, and similar sins of those who have been members of the church for a long period of time than for those who are "young in the faith."

The saints are summoned by the Savior to be soul-centered (cf. Matt. 28:19,20). Understand that the lost are just that--lacking direction as they walk around in darkness (cf. I Pet. 2:9). After Paul asked for prayers so that he would know the way he ought to speak to the lost, he charged Christians, like you and I, to "walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one" (Col. 4:4-6). Let not one iota of doctrine suffer in that effort, but may we use common sense in imparting it!