Thursday, October 15, 2009

When the Heckler Won't Stop

Last night I had a disruptive visitor in my class. He was a Roman Catholic "expert" who came to my study on the dangers of Roman Catholic doctrine. Our topic was the Virgin Mary. This "expert" interrupted and disputed my teaching more times than I can remember throughout the evening. I am all for healthy discussion in class settings and am a big fan of interactive one-on-one conversations. In a class setting however, certain boundaries must be observed by everyone, and control must be maintained by the teacher. As the hour went on, the disruptive "Catholic expert" was clearly crossing the line and I knew I must maintain control. Several questions crossed my mind as I taught: 1) Do I ask him to leave? I almost did, but I really wanted him to hear Biblical truth. 2) How much do I allow him to talk? Sometimes I like the opposing point of view to be present because it reinforces why I'm addressing that subject. This definitely happened. It also gives God's Spirit a wonderful opportunity to correct faulty doctrine. But the opposition cannot take over. 3) How do I respectfully show him that he's Biblically wrong and that he's crossed social boundaries in the class? This is tough stuff. My goal was to reach him, but his goal was to publicly prove me (and the Bible) wrong. Once this became apparent to me and the 40+ others attending the class, I respectfully explained that his comments were no longer welcome. "I would be happy to dialogue with you individually, but I have a class of people who came to hear me teach, not you interrupt." 3-4 More times I had to make similar statements as his persistance mounted. Right up to my closing prayer, he insisted on rudely interjecting. The entire class was more than weary of him. I pray they felt sorry for him and are burdened for him. It was one of the most unique and memorable teaching hours I've ever led.

It is good for all of us to occasionally experience theological challenges. This one for me happened to be a public one (and I was sure glad I was well prepared!) We must remember that our goal is not to win - Even When the Heckler Won't Stop. God has called us to present Truth from the Bible, and to allow it to correct those who believe false doctrine. Sharing truth is not a pride competition between you and another person. We need to tactfully, lovingly, and firmly share truth. God alone changes hearts. God alone also holds the unrepentant opposition accountable.

One final thought: it is amazing how opposition makes the Body of Christ draw together in unity. I was very proud of our class and their increased desire to allow the Bible alone to determine what we believe and what we reject.


  1. Good stuff! I also believe in dialogue and engaging ideas and testing beliefs but it sounds like his social behavior was more of a hindrance than his beliefs.
    One point you mentioned but did not elaborate on was the importance of preparation. I was challenged one time when talking about the trinity and was sure glad that did not happen to be one of my messages I threw together the day of.

  2. I've worked very hard to do good research so as to accurately present the RCC perspective as well as the Biblical objections to it. At times I felt a little guilty of spending too much time studying for these particular messages. Looking back, I'm glad I spent the extra time & energy.