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?