Is it appropriate to attend a church that does not uphold correct Bible teachings if you yourself are aware of the true teachings of God’s Word?
We are unsure of what you intend by your condition: “if you yourself are aware of the true teachings of God.” You may refer to our individual accountability to God because we know what is right yet place ourselves in the fellowship of those who are not upholding correct Biblical teaching; in which case we would be disobeying the command to “come out from among them and be separate, and “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” (2 Cor. 6:17; Eph. 5:11). Or you may suggest that if we know correct Bible teaching we will not be influenced by those who are teaching error, therefore may safely fellowship with them and be unaffected by the error. Scripture offers no justification for such fellowship.
Always God commanded His people to be separate from unbelievers. The Law of Moses contains severe penalties for those who would participate in any way with the pagan religions of the time. “I am the Lord your God, who has separated you from the peoples …. And you shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine” (Lev. 20:24, 26).
The Law was so strict that it read: “If your brother, the son of your mother, your son or your daughter, the wife of your bosom, or your friend who is as your own soul, secretly entices you, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which you have not known, neither you nor your fathers;… you shall not consent to him or listen to him” (Deut. 13:6, 8). The offenders were to be put to death.
In the days of Ezra, the people strayed from the command, inter-married with foreigners, and were adopting their ways. Ezra took a strong position saying, “You have transgressed and have taken pagan wives, adding to the guilt of Israel. Now therefore, make confession to the Lord God of your fathers, and do His will; separate yourselves from the peoples of the land, and from the pagan wives” (Ezra 10:10-11). This is not to suggest that wedded partners today should separate if one is a believer and the other a non-believer. Apparently such situations existed among the Corinthians and Paul advised the believers so to live that the second partner, seeing the Christian’s good example, might be won to the cause (1 Cor. 7:11-14; I Pet. 3:1-2).
The apostle Paul in 2 Cor. 6 gave some very specific instructions to follow: “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? …. Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you’ ” (2 Cor. 6:14-15, 17). Here is a command directly from the Lord Himself. God wants His people to be separate, so that they do not adopt the ways and habits of the polluted world in which they must live. As Jesus said, we must be in the world but not of it (John 17:15). Again the apostle John says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world” (1 John 2:15-17).
Your friends may tell you that the people attending church services are above average, and are better company than you can find elsewhere. There is some truth in this statement. However, these people are subscribing to false doctrines; they are singing hymns containing thoughts that are not God’s. Their standards are often dictated by their surroundings. This is why the prophet Jeremiah said, “I did not sit in the assembly of the mockers, Nor did I rejoice; I sat alone because of Your hand” (Jer. 15:17); the Psalmist said, “I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert. I lie awake, and am like a sparrow alone on the housetop” (Ps. 102:6-7).
It is better to be alone with God than to be in company with those who oppose Him.
One other factor might be considered, and that is the purpose for which one is attending a service where false doctrines are proclaimed. If one were attending not for the fellowship or for the purpose of worshiping, but for the possible opportunity of speaking to the group or of talking to those attending, possibly to help some of them to understand the truths of the Bible, this would be different than joining with them in worship and might be done to the glory of God. Again, one rule must control our actions: “…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).