Doctrines, Issues and Dealing with Differences

freely-10076-preview-973x649It was many years ago when an acquaintance heard where I worshiped and quipped, “Oh, aren’t you the church who thinks you’re the only ones going to Heaven?”  Flash forward a decade or so and another associate remarked, “You’re the ones who don’t believe in instrumental music, right?”
It’s a bit vexing that the world has identified us with anything other than Christ. I’d much rather someone ask, “Aren’t you the ones who feed the homeless? Care for the orphans? Run the prison ministry? Have that inner city mission? Love their neighbor? Get along so well with those you disagree with?”
We could discuss the worship practices of the church for hours but there are always going to be people who disagree with each other. So what do we do when faced with doctrinal matters that some classify as issues and issues that others deem doctrine?
          React Righteously
Responding in anger or arrogance severely damages the cause of Christ. Posting comments on videos, articles or Facebook posts or writing open letters or articles that could be perceived as threatening or abusive is unacceptable. We must refuse to give ourselves over to rage and evil because we believe others to be in error. Even if they are. Fighting among ourselves will extinguish any light that we have in this world.
          Build Bridges
Instead of attacking, gossiping or thinking poorly of another, why not offer time to sit down with a cup of coffee and find out why a person’s belief differs? Ask questions. Share stories. Search the Scripture with an open heart and be willing to win a friend even if you can’t come to the same conclusion.
          Instill Love
We have an obligation to teach everyone especially the next generation that respecting an eldership that deems an issue cultural is just as important as respecting a leadership that doesn’t. Valuing each other is vital to the growth of the church. Those who follow differently aren’t our enemies. They are servants of the Master who may be worshiping in error or may just be worshiping differently from us. We need to remember that just because it’s different doesn’t always mean it’s wrong.
          Look to Christ for our example.
When the disciples were aggravated about those working in the name of Jesus but who weren’t part of their group, they took matters straight to the Christ. You can almost see the twelve appalled and stomping their way to Jesus ready to let him know what those other folks were up to. They hadn’t been living with Jesus, walking where he walked and watching what he did. Had they even heard him preach firsthand? They were outsiders and here in a time when Jesus could have  prohibited or chastised them for their actions, instead he offers grace and encouragement, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you” (Luke 9:50).
Our mission isn’t to defend the Gospel but to proclaim it by the way we love God, Christ and others. The reaction we give to our brother and neighbor is paramount in our proclamation of that love. We have no time, authority or right to bully or threaten the safety of anyone in the name of Jesus.
There are always going to be people we disagree with on issues and doctrine.  However, how we disagree is just as important as what we disagree. N­ever allow anything to trump the grace that we have received and should be giving. Let the world see us and say, “Look how well they love!”

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  1. Pingback: Doctrines, Issues and Dealing with Differences | Wineskins.org | Talmidimblogging

  2. I am able to have discussions with people outside the church but what am I to do with elders who refuse to discuss any issue that goes against CoC doctrine? Whether the topic is women’s roles in the church, instrumental accompaniment to singing or the possibility of Christians in “the denominations” the answer is the same, “The Bible has spoken, what more is there to discuss?”

  3. In my judgment, shepherds should always be ready to study and grow in God’s word. Much has been said or written by those who would rather “fight than (ever consider) switching” or changing anything traditionally done.
    1. Establish a good relationship with shepherds. If you can develop a relationship where you can essentially discuss anything with them, then considering differences can be done without a fuss.
    2. Give some thought to the following principles:
    a.) Never build a church on issues…
    The following principles are developed from studying Romans 14-15. Notice that I don’t simply speak about “meat,” “veggies,” days,” etc.. I believe what Paul teaches here opens the door to principles which can help us with other things today…
    b.) Brethren can differ. The fact is that brethren DO DIFFER on many things. They just don’t talk about the differences in public for one reason or another. Perhaps they think it won’t do any good, or it may cause them some grief. This is sad indeed… for it hinders growth instead of promoting it. I do not know everything. I am sometimes asked questions to which my answer is “I just don’t know.” I encourage my classes to repeat after me, “I JUST DON’T AGREE WITH YOU ON THAT.” We need to understand, we can disagree, ask questions, keep searching, growing together and help each other in the process.
    c.) Personal convictions (conscience, opinions) NEVER should be considered congregational law. What one believes is largely a personal thing. One may listen to and enjoy singing along with the Gaithers on the radio, or play religious songs on the piano at home, but they should not push their opinions on brethren or cause a split.
    d.) There is a big difference in “Stumbling block” and “Grumbling block.” Some Christians are weak and do indeed stumble . They have difficulties in growing. They want to grow, but are taking more time, and need more consideration by those who are strong in faith and freedom. Then you have those who just grumble about things. They want their way. (Let all have their “say,” but that doesn’t mean all can have their “way.”)
    e.) There is a big difference between a “weak conscience” and a “hard head.” The weak conscience is the one you have to watch for in regards to stumbling and falling away. This fits the over all context of Romans 14-15. The “hard head” is not particularly a “strong brother,” but tends to be the one who will not consider any other thoughts, opinions etc. He/she has made up their minds and that’s it. Try as you may, you won’t have any effect on the hard headed person. This is unfortunate, for this person has stopped growing. Pride may be a potential downfall for the hard head.
    f.) Appeasement is not unity. Some congregations are afflicted with those who are manipulators, who demand their way, use their money or position in the world, to control what goes on in the local congregation. Needed: STRONG LEADERS. One cannot gain true unity as Paul speaks of, by “appeasing” the loud, or “hard headed.”
    Over all I would say, it takes a wise person to deal with all the situations that occur within the local congregation, in such a way so as to maintain unity of the Spirit and keep the bond of peace.
    General thoughts:
    1. Develop a spirit of cooperation, love and service…
    2. Let people know your “mainest” goal is to help others grow in Christ.
    3. Do not use the pulpit to blast elders or others since they cannot speak back. (Got a problem with someone? Go to them privately and explain your thoughts, and why you are wanting to take special look at a particular scripture. Explain that you desire is not to cause trouble, or upset the apple cart as it were, but to search the Scriptures and discover truth and principles which can help the church.
    4. Principles which we mentioned above, can help open minds or prepare the ground for other studies.
    5. If an elder will not even consider looking or studying something with you, maybe ask him why. What is the harm in a private sit down and study to see if he can help you see if YOU have missed something. At the same time, he may have missed something.
    6. Sometimes things like this takes time, so be patient.
    7. Do your own thinking as you study.
    8. AVOID EXTREMES in your conclusions… Any truth or Scripture (excepting Jesus) when taken to an extreme or lifted from the context, will lead to some false teaching. One piece of the puzzle is not the whole. So strive to see the over-all story of Scriptures and see if your conclusion fits.
    9. Pray for guidance in all of this.
    10. Wait. Sometimes, when I write something which seems controversial, gets put in the “Wait” pile. Just give yourself some time on it and do more studying to see if you are off-base a bit. Read and re-read. “Things change,” and who knows if you share your thoughts with someone you trust and who is mature in Christ can help find some weak points in your findings. Better to find out before you present your thoughts publicly, than after.
    Hope this helps…
    Grow in grace!