A few weeks ago, I was trying my best to persuade a group of Christian leaders of my church to take a course of action that I believed strongly in. Of course, I believed I was right! But, I lost. And, I don’t always like losing. (But, that’s another blog for another day.) It wasn’t a moral or spiritual issue, but it still stung when the majority saw it differently.
A wise elder once told me, “Clare, when the train is leaving the station, you have two choices. You can either wave it goodbye, or shake your fist at it. Meaning that we have choices how we “lose” – gracefully or angrily.
So, in the church how do we learn to lose gracefully?
1. Is this a wisdom or personal preference issue, or does it violate a deeply held spiritual or moral conviction?
In the issue I described above, I thought the approach they wanted to take was an unwise choice, but it didn’t violate any clear biblical principle or truth. (You can always find some biblical proof for anything if you really want to. But, I’d suggest using the Bible cautiously to “prove your point”, in these issues.) Also, the leaders of my church are spiritual, committed and capable people, for whom I have a lot of respect, so I accepted their decision.
The “music wars” in churches are good examples of a personal preference issue. Unless the words of certain songs are theologically in error, once you’ve let your feeling known to the leadership, let it go.
2. But, what if a decision violates your conscience?
“If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” James 4:17
If in your opinion, a decision violates your conscience and what you believe the Bible teaches clearly, here are your options:
A. Pray for wisdom and to examine your own thoughts and ideas. (You could be wrong or misguided because of your own theological bent or upbringing.)
B. Get the counsel of others you respect spiritually, not just those who you suspect agree with you.
C. Write a letter to the leadership, clearly articulating what you believe and why. Ask for an opportunity to meet with them. Have your spouse or a friend read your letter to assure its tune is respectful, thoughtful and biblical.
D. Pray faithfully, that the letter will be received with the same grace that you’ve written it.
E. If the leadership changes its position, then you’ve won a brother over.
F. If not, you do not have the option to complain about this problem to others and sow discord. Proverbs 6:16, 19 says this, “There are six things the Lord hates… a person who stirs up conflict in the community.”
You now have a choice to make. As a member of that church, the leaders are your spiritual authority. Ultimately, you can either choose to submit yourself to them gracefully, or withdraw and come out from under their authority.
A family we became friends with went to a very liberal church. Once they came to faith, and began studying the Bible for themselves, they were alarmed with the false teaching they and their children were hearing on Sundays. In fact, they found themselves telling their children almost every week on the way home from church, that they disagreed with their pastor and why. I told them what they were doing was wrong and they were shocked!
(In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve had differences of opinion with my own pastor on theological issues and I’ve also discussed them with our children. But, those occasions have been rare and my family knows the deep respect I have for our pastor in every way.)
But, back to our friends.
Our friends had already met with the pastor and several elders and voiced their concerns, but it was clear the leadership was not going to change. In my opinion, they had only one choice, leave the church. They did not have the option of disrespecting their leaders, or causing others to disrespect them, even liberal ones.
I urged them to write a gracious thank you letter to the church, telling them respectfully and specifically why they were leaving – but leave. “Lose” gracefully. Once they left, other church members contacted them to ask why they left. Now they were free to share with them their concerns as voiced in the letter and over time numbers of other families left as well, and most left gracefully.
by Clare De Graaf
Question: I’d like to hear your thoughts. How would you have counseled this family, or how have you handled these types of disagreements?
Following Jesus in Real Life