In my last post, I did not do justice to the amount of confusion that can arise in church, especially when beliefs do come into conflict. As a comment on the previous post smartly points out,
In reality, I would say that is the great weakness of protestantism; no bishops, no creed, and no education in the beliefs that the church has held through the centuries has removed all authority, all objectivity of doctrine and worship.
While this is a great point, and a worthy criticism of the Protestant tradition, I do have one issue. Protestant tradition does claim an absolute authority: Scripture! And though this sola scriptura we gain a wealth of diversity. At the same time we are also presented with a challenge when differing hermeneutics are applied to the same text.
Imagine this situation:
You come to church. You greet your friends, meet some new faces, and find your seat. The pastor gets up and gives a genuine, warm welcome. You really like her; shes a good one. Then the band kicks into an awesome worship set. With hands high and eyes soggy, you pour your heart out in worship. Then the prayer of transition between the worship set and the sermon (that is just how it goes…you know).
The pastor steps up and begins her sermon. Now remember, you really like this lady. She’s good people. As her exposition unfolds, you come to the realization that you can’t quite follow what she is saying. Not that you don’t understand it, because that lady is a great communicator. You just can’t… you just can’t agree with it. She passionately and wholeheartedly continues into the topic, whatever the topic is, and you start to lean forward, staring at the floor. Your thoughts are racing…
What is going on here?
How could she believe… THAT?!
What should I do?!
You find yourself in an almost untenable situation. Do you leave? Should you stand and object? What if *gasp* you’re the one who is wrong?!
Not a pretty picture. What started as a compelling day of worship has turned into either a crisis of faith or one of identity.
You have doubtless been in this pew before. Here are some steps to follow the next time this happens to you. Don’t worry, I do not claim these to be inspired!
1. Check yourself first.
As Christians, we have the responsibility to maintain intimacy with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives us wisdom and insight, and without it we cannot hope to understand Truth. If for no other reason than simple, obedient humility, first go and check your own beliefs.
2. Talk to the pastor.
Having had the opportunity to preach several times, I know a pastor is never more thrilled than when they learn that someone actually listened to the sermon! It doesn’t matter if you disagreed with all of it, they will be stoked! So send an email and ask them to clarify. Wait for their response, for you might have misunderstood originally. People are notoriously bad listeners. Just ask God.
3. State your objection peaceably.
Chances are good that your pastor is a mature Christian, understanding that honest, loving debate can almost invariably profit the Church. The key words here are honest and loving. Honest and loving debate has at its core a deep desire for finding Truth and a deep love and respect for the other party.
Chances are good that if you have faithfully followed these steps, or steps resembling these, you have reached at least a peaceable understanding with your pastor. Doubtless there will be mutual respect gained, and my fervent prayer would be that both parties grow closer to each other and to God.
Because *clap* that’s what its all about!(Sorry for the cheesy ending, but the post was getting a bit long…) Have you guys ever had disagreements with a church pastor or church leader? How did you handle them? What do you think about the steps listed above?
5 thoughts on “Confession and a question…”
Sadly, how a preacher responds depends entirely on the pastor in question. I’ve had teachers and pastors who were more than happy to talk and debate with me. Others, however, felt that they had the absolute say on what Truth was, and that I should sit down, shut up, and listen to them. I get the impression that those who are open to debate and dialogue are in the minority.
Honest and loving debate is probably more uncommon than it should be
I would grant someone a logically untenable position on the basis of faith, as long as they don’t insist on the argument’s logical merits.
I have appreciated the Christian Church ‘doctrine’ of using only the Bible for their teaching. Everyone has access to the Bible in various translations and people should be able to find answers to doctrinal questions there IF they are willing to study a topic, in context. That way you don’t have to worry about a denomination’s tenet or creed or organizational chart. There is a lot of diversity within the Christian Church because no one is tied to a man’s interpretation of the Scriptures. Agreeing on every point is not necessary and need not cause division. Respect individual’s beliefs as long as they are based on Biblical truths. The Holy Spirit is the agent of understanding.
I think you have given a good method of resolving doctrinal conflicts. Make sure of your understanding based on the Bible and enter a discussion not an argument. Sometimes there may be more than one meeting to give time for objective Biblical research of the opposing opinion.
Not all things need to be discussed. Last Sunday night we were discussing Jesus’s death and resurrection. Some one made a comment on his beliefs of where the dead go and what happens after we die that I did not agree with. Instead of taking him to task, I didn’t say anything. It was not that big a deal to me what he thought, it doesn’t change what Christ did for us or the Gospel message. We can have a difference of opinion on what happens after death and still have fellowship with each other.
In essentials unity, in non essentials liberty, in all things love.