The Doctrine of
"Don't Rock the Boat"

by Pastor Steve Brown

Master of Divinity, Asbury Seminary

Recently my friend, Mike Sawyer, came across a church sign that said, “If we were busy doing our job of rowing we wouldn’t have time to stand up and rock the boat.” To those committed to conformity and pleasing people this sounds like a good teaching. Those who seek to please God know what is really behind this saying. It is a damnable doctrine invented by church teachers to silence those who would dare speak up against the man made rules and man made opinions that today are running most of our churches.

It is a wayward leader's way of enforcing the “gag rule” that is so prevalent in our churches today. It has become a great sin to speak up when a believer sees his church not following scripture in some area, either teaching heresy or disobeying scripture. Of course if a God-lover does speak up he is usually either out and out rebuked as someone with a "spirit of criticism" or put down in more subtle ways so he or she feels they have done something wrong.

The idea is to make church people feel that to be a good Christian one must be an empty headed, no thinker who must always conform and submit to the church bosses. If they dare use their spiritual mind and actually discern and check the church with the Bible’s teaching, they are branded as trouble makers and rebels because they refuse to submit to the unbiblical church rules. This is done to intimidate and force one to submit to their control.

Today godly pastors or godly men and women who serve God and live by the Scriptures do not run most churches. Rather they are run by control-freaks who use church for ego trips. In other words religious hypocrites like the Pharisees who resisted Christ and eventually killed Him. The reason so many of these control freaks run our churches is because our churches have fallen away from their main purpose for existing.

The purpose of the church is:

1) to proclaim the Word of God, especially the Gospel of Christ, to the people

2) administer the sacraments and teach Christ’s doctrine

3) worship God

4) have Christian fellowship.

Today the church has regressed to just many religious social clubs. Few truly preach the whole, true Gospel, but many have perverted it so it is more acceptable to man. They preach and please men and not God. Churches no longer live by the Scriptures but rather by the rules and opinions of man. Why? Because most churches, especially main line denominations, have rejected the Scriptures as the inerrant and inspired Word of God.

Why are the Scriptures rejected? Because of a modern damnable method of Bible study called historical criticism. This method rejects God as the author of the Bible and teaches men wrote it and it is full of errors and mistakes and up for grabs as to what it means. Many churches are embracing this method and so are rejecting Scriptures as the authority of Christian life. So if the Word of God no longer guides the church as the way to go, what does? It has been replaced by men’s rules: opinions of pastors and committees and control freaks who believe they know better than Scripture.

Why the teaching “Don’t Rock the Boat”? The control freaks that rule the Church don’t want to be challenged or lose their power. They want everyone to just follow them. This rule of man has been made up by them to intimidate true Christians who will challenge their man made rules with Scripture by exposing that their rules are not what Scripture teaches.

The Bible clearly teaches to suffer the word of exhortation; meaning the Word of God that corrects and challenges to live God’s way of truth and righteousness. The best way to silence these trouble-making Christians is to rebuke them as troublemakers who are overly critical and rock the boat or destroy the false harmony of these "storehouses for Hell."

I remember well when I was called to pastor a church in Michigan. The leaving interim pastor left me some helpful notes with a final statement: "Don’t Rock the Boat." Of course I have never found a chapter and verse in the Bible to support this teaching. On the contrary, Jesus teaches us to beware of false prophets and their teaching; to be salt and light and expose the darkness and evil around us. John teaches us we are to test the spirits if they are of God. Discerning truth and error, godly or sinful practices, is the way of true Christians because they love the truth. If we are not diligent to cling to Christ’s teachings (the way of life), then false preachers and false teachings of men can take us away from our Savior and put us on the way of darkness and death.

Today the Word of God is not popular in most churches. As a Pastor I am always committed to preach the Word of God and try my best to follow Scripture in my own life and the life of the Church. The people in most churches have not heard the true Gospel, so most are not truly saved with new natures. They are used to living by men’s rules. It is difficult to be a man of God today in most churches. There is so much rebellion to God’s Word and way because most church people live by a perverted Gospel and the doctrine of men.

The Church I took over was in bad shape. Control freaks with serious spiritual problems ruled it. I doubt that most of the lay leaders on the board were even true believers. The Church had only about thirty people coming when I started to preach the true Gospel. In a matter of a couple of months we had about 100 people coming. Many were sinners hungry to hear the Good News and have a preacher that tells it like it is.

There was trouble, real trouble. An elderly board member, who had been on the board for thirty years, had been habitually molesting women in the Church. Two young women came to me and were afraid to be in the same room with him. I had some members of the board with the women confront him in a meeting. He did not think he had done anything wrong. Up to this time the former pastors had known about this man and only slapped his wrist by telling him not to do this any more. Many women had suffered under his ongoing sin. They operated by man’s rule, like most churches, and because of it, many had suffered. How many people have been burned and suffered because churches refuse to obey Scripture and are run by men’s rules of prejudice and partiality?

Well, I had a choice. I could "not rock the boat" and just say, "don’t do it anymore" and let him keep attending church or I could deal with him according to scripture, which would almost tip the boat over. My choice was to be a true Christian. We ought to please God rather than man. If we follow Christ and obey the Scriptures and not the rules of men, there is a price to pay. But there is also glory. If we are true Christians that stand for Christ, His truth, and His way, then we will naturally rock the boat. Just as the Sun makes shadows and the wind causes waves in the sea, so the truth and obeying the Word causes conflict among evil, sinful men. In a world of sinners who fight God, true and right living will always rock someone’s boat.

What does Scripture say about how to treat a sexually perverted man? I Corinthians chapter 5 tells us if anyone claims to be a Christian and commits sexual sin and justifies himself or herself, and will not repent, then the Church should cut them off from fellowship until they do repent. Is this a popular way? Of course not! But Scripture is God’s way and I am a follower of Christ. So as pastor, I obeyed God’s word and told this man he could not attend church anymore until he repented of his sin and admitted it was sinful behavior to molest women. Also, he was to get some counseling.

Well, the boat almost flipped. The metal hit the fan. The old people and some of the church bosses were angry that this old board member was knocked out of the church. He had been on the board for about 30 years. It caused such a stir the church eventually split and I almost got fired. The word of God when obeyed is good and right, but it does rock the boat, especially in churches that are not obeying God’s word and are in rebellion. It is difficult at times for a Christian to faithfully follow Christ and live by God’s word, and it can cause hardships and rejection by people, especially the religious hypocrites and control freaks.

Today’s Christianity has regressed to a superficial conformity to churches and sects and their pet doctrines and tradition that usually ignore God’s Holy Word. But Jesus said, "If any man will come after me (be a true follower), let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." If we refuse to suffer persecution for Christ and His word then we cannot and will not follow Christ.

There are three groups of people that attend churches today. One is the control freaks that run the churches by man’s rules, and intimidate people to conform to men’s rules by saying "Don’t rock the boat." Then there are the people who are the people pleasers who conform and love to please people and the leaders more than they love God. Then there are the boat rockers like Jesus, the apostles, and reformers who love to please God more. Those men will constantly rock the boat as they proclaim the word of God and call men to repent, believe in Christ, and obey God’s word and not men’s commandments. There are those who want to control the boat and tell others don’t rock the boat. There are those who mindlessly obey and for fear of men will not rock the boat, and then there are the courageous boat rockers who love truth. Only one of those groups are made up of true Christians, they are the boat rockers.

In what group do you find yourself? With so many churches rejecting the Scripture’s teaching against homosexuality, abortion, inerrancy of the Scriptures, liberal theology, and so on, it is time for Christians to stand up and rock the boat and let their light shine. The modern church is a mess because so many believers have conformed to the worldly ways of the church, instead of being boat rockers. We cannot have a new reformation without boat rockers. May God help us.


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"The idea is to make church people feel that to be a good Christian one must be an empty headed, no thinker who must always conform and submit to the church bosses. "

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