IT’S OK TO DISAGREE SOMETIMES

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RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
Check out the following article: https://stephenkneale.com/2020/08/06/its-ok-to-disagree-sometimes/

The specific area that caught my eye was the below section but the entire article caught my eye. It made me think of how one should define Unity and Divisiveness. Here are a few quotes from the article:

"But some pastors and church leaders so dislike being disagreed with that they create polity and structures to make it very hard for anyone to disagree. Of course, they always welcome ‘feedback’ (except, they often don’t, really) but it is also clear such ‘feedback’ is merely advisory. It is for their information to do with as they will... Some go further still with much talk of ‘loyalty’. Except ‘loyalty’ typically gets defined as backing every decision the leader makes, regardless of what you feel about it. Challenging decisions is cast as disloyalty and dissent. It is not a legitimate, worthy of discussion disagreement between equals but a challenge (and a disloyal one at that) to the superior position of the apparent elder-in-charge. "

I suspect that these types of interactions, if true, would be under the guise or Unity. Anybody who disagrees would be considered divisive. How do we define these terms and when is divisiveness truly divisiveness? There are obvious examples when a church member insists on a theological framework against the churches beliefs / catechism. What if the situation isn't all that black and white? What if its related to the above scenario when church leadership has created a structure that forbids disagreeing with an Elders decisions. What if there was a conflict within the Eldership that got out to the congregation but when the congregations asks questions they provide vague answers. Would it be divisive for a member to insist on details?

Looking forward to hearing everyones thoughts on the subject.
 

RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
Hehe.. are you all just reacting to the title or do you think its silly to Challenge the Elders decisions in gray area cases?


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Taylor Sexton

Puritan Board Junior
This article sounds like it was written specifically with my in-laws' former church in mind. Their "pastor" (a severely unqualified man, who really should never so much as cast his shadow behind a pulpit) is precisely such a man. Yet, he does not even have co-elders, but a "leadership team." As far as I understand from my father-in-law, this team is in reality strictly advisory. He calls all the shots.

This exact behavior mentioned in the article happened to my father-in-law this year, in fact. After COVID-19 began spreading, this church refused to shut down, or take any safety measures whatsoever (this was before we knew much about the disease, too; before we knew that it isn't an apocalyptic plague). The problem, though, is that his refusal to close was based upon his prosperity theology. True Christians never get sick. He even sent a video out to the congregation regarding his decision, saying, "I don't even need to pray about this!"

Well, my father-in-law was rightly bothered by this. (My father-in-law, by the way, is also in leadership at this church.) So, he expressed his concern, which was ignored. Long story short, it got to the point to where the pastor refused even to speak to my father-in-law. So, my in-laws' made the decision to leave. This kind of leadership style is unfortunately very common. This pastor even constantly talks to his people about "having his back." It's very disturbing, even cultish.

—————

But, to discuss your question, I think that biblically there is a difference between simple disagreement, or even challenge, and sowing discord among brethren. So, for example, if a lay person went to their pastor with concerns about a matter, that is not being divisive. But if that same individual went around sowing distrust in the pastor, or disparaging his competence, this is obviously out of line.

But, the article I think is spot on with regard to making sure we set up our churches in such a way to mitigate this sinful tendency. Not only is a plurality of elders biblical, it is just smart.

Thanks for sharing.
 
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83r17h

Puritan Board Freshman
It's an interesting question. I think this is where you get at some of the distinctions between different types of church polity. I appreciate the article discussing the necessity of multiple elders who are in fact equals, as well as highlighting briefly recourse to external parties for assistance. He is right that non-equality of elders essentially becomes prelacy (the papacy, for example). He also points out that independent churches have no external assistance or authority to guard.

All good points. I think he's right that we can disagree. But disagreement doesn't need to lead to division. We can gracefully disagree and submit to decisions, so long as they do not violate the Gospel or the conscience. I guess it comes down to what you mean by "challenge the elders." If a member is concerned about the governance of the church, they should seek out the elders, but not spread discontent among the congregation. Why does the person not seek to become an elder? Do they meet the qualifications and have a heart for the church? If so, there's no reason why they shouldn't be able to do so.

What do your elders think? ;)
 

Kinghezy

Puritan Board Sophomore
I do sometimes give the elders my feedback on church practices, and such. I think you can do this respectively and without the assumption that they will agree. My viewpoint has been that I will give my case to the elder, but it is not in my purview that they have to reach the same conclusion.

After having come out of some tense weeks as they dealt with COVID and an internal issue that is still going on, I also think it is important to make sure to support your elders as much as possible. Knowing how little people say "good job" when at work you have to make decisions that impact others and knowing how you generally only hear from people when there is a problem, I am convicted that I should be intentionally encouraging my elders. So, I would caution on how much time you are challenging the elders versus encouraging.
 

W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Sophomore
This article sounds like it was written specifically with my in-laws' former church in mind. Their "pastor" (a severely unqualified man, who really should never so much as cast his shadow behind a pulpit) is precisely such a man. Yet, he does not even have co-elders, but a "leadership team." As far as I understand from my father-in-law, this team is in reality strictly advisory. He calls all the shots.

This exact behavior mentioned in the article happened to my father-in-law this year, in fact. After COVID-19 began spreading, this church refused to shut down, or take any safety measures whatsoever (this was before we knew much about the disease, too; before we knew that it isn't an apocalyptic plague). The problem, though, is that his refusal to close was based upon his prosperity theology. True Christians never get sick. He even sent a video out to the congregation regarding his decision, saying, "I don't even need to pray about this!"

Well, my father-in-law was rightly bothered by this. (My father-in-law, by the way, is also in leadership at this church.) So, he expressed his concern, which was ignored. Long story short, it got to the point to where the pastor refused even to speak to my father-in-law. So, my in-laws' made the decision to leave. This kind of leadership style is unfortunately very common. This pastor even constantly talks to his people about "having his back." It's very disturbing, even cultish.

—————

But, to discuss your question, I think that biblically there is a difference between simple disagreement, or even challenge, and sowing discord among brethren. So, for example, if a lay person went to their pastor with concerns about a matter, that is not being divisive. But if that same individual went around sowing distrust in the pastor, or disparaging his competence, this is obviously out of line.

But, the article I think is spot on with regard to making sure we set up our churches in such a way to eliminate this sinful tendency. Not only is a plurality of elders biblical, it is just smart.

Thanks for sharing.
We attended a church where the Pastor is essentially the only authority for years. They called it a "Pastor-led Church." I coined it Ecclesiastical Dictatorship. Unfortunately, the people really did have his back. Any problems presented to most congregants was turned around on you, and it was never the Pastor's fault. He was a very manipulative man.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Senior
We attended a church where the Pastor is essentially the only authority for years. They called it a "Pastor-led Church." I coined it Ecclesiastical Dictatorship.
Brother, unfortunately, in God's providence, this is the case in my church. I am the sole elder in an "elder rule" church. And I know many other such men in small congregations and they are the only elder. But I don't think it is necessary to assume when there is just one pastor that it's a dictatorship. It sadly may be in some cases. But there are many pastors who labor alone in Christ's church and and exercise their authority with humility, meekness, and love. I guess what I am trying to say is that we should not assume if a man is laboring alone, that he must be guilty of "lording it over" those entrusted to him (1 Peter 3:5).
 
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W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Sophomore
Brother, unfortunately, in God's providence, this is the case in my church. I am the sole elder in an "elder rule" church. And I no many other such men in small congregations and they are the only elder. But I don't think it is necessary to assume when there is just one pastor that it's a dictatorship. It sadly may be in some cases. But there are many pastors who labor alone in Christ's church and and exercise their authority with humility, meekness, and love.
I understand your position. I believe the key is that you are held to a confession and you do not have a desire to manipulate everyone into believing everything you is good for the church. We did not have elders at this church, and the pastor did not intend to change.
 

RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
But disagreement doesn't need to lead to division

I am thinking in terms of a church actually doing these things. Hypothetically speaking let's say there is a pastor who chooses his friends who are more passive and agreeable to be his elders. None of the Elder exhort or confront each other when there is sin. So on the outside there is Unity accross the Elders. When a congregational member has an issue they request that you bring it to an Elder. They Elder may provide vague responses and even do things that could be sinful out of anger. Yet, to the Elders these are simply suggestions and since these interactions are one on one nobody could ever bring a charge against an Elder since you need two or three witnesses.

I think we need to define what division really is within specific contexts. If they're doing what the author says then is challenging the Elders when they're doing those things divisive? Is it really unity if the Elders never exhort each other or challenge each other? What about when one person is in charge and the others only make suggestions but their decisions truly don't carry any weight?
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
This article sounds like it was written specifically with my in-laws' former church in mind. Their "pastor" (a severely unqualified man, who really should never so much as cast his shadow behind a pulpit) is precisely such a man. Yet, he does not even have co-elders, but a "leadership team." As far as I understand from my father-in-law, this team is in reality strictly advisory. He calls all the shots.

This exact behavior mentioned in the article happened to my father-in-law this year, in fact. After COVID-19 began spreading, this church refused to shut down, or take any safety measures whatsoever (this was before we knew much about the disease, too; before we knew that it isn't an apocalyptic plague). The problem, though, is that his refusal to close was based upon his prosperity theology. True Christians never get sick. He even sent a video out to the congregation regarding his decision, saying, "I don't even need to pray about this!"

Well, my father-in-law was rightly bothered by this. (My father-in-law, by the way, is also in leadership at this church.) So, he expressed his concern, which was ignored. Long story short, it got to the point to where the pastor refused even to speak to my father-in-law. So, my in-laws' made the decision to leave. This kind of leadership style is unfortunately very common. This pastor even constantly talks to his people about "having his back." It's very disturbing, even cultish.

—————

But, to discuss your question, I think that biblically there is a difference between simple disagreement, or even challenge, and sowing discord among brethren. So, for example, if a lay person went to their pastor with concerns about a matter, that is not being divisive. But if that same individual went around sowing distrust in the pastor, or disparaging his competence, this is obviously out of line.

But, the article I think is spot on with regard to making sure we set up our churches in such a way to mitigate this sinful tendency. Not only is a plurality of elders biblical, it is just smart.

Thanks for sharing.
To your point about disagreeing vs sowing discord, we are dealing with this very subject at our church. When lay-people talk among themselves, is it out of court to discuss public decisions the elders make (such as whether to close the church or not sing or whatever), if we disagree with those? How is the congregation to sharpen iron with iron if they can't discuss difficult topics among themselves? It seems that many thoughts that could and maybe should be voiced are left unsaid because people have an almost superstitious fear of "saying anything against the pastors." Surely no one imagines their elders to be infallible, and what a disservice it is to them to let them continue unchallenged into dangerous territory! If everyone always tells them only what they wish to hear, will they not become like spoiled children who cannot bear to be contradicted? As public figures, their actions and decisions should be subjected to even closer scrutiny than laypeople's, and if they cry "discord!" every time they're disagreed with, they simply need to grow up.
 

Taylor Sexton

Puritan Board Junior
To your point about disagreeing vs sowing discord, we are dealing with this very subject at our church. When lay-people talk among themselves, is it out of court to discuss public decisions the elders make (such as whether to close the church or not sing or whatever), if we disagree with those? How is the congregation to sharpen iron with iron if they can't discuss difficult topics among themselves? It seems that many thoughts that could and maybe should be voiced are left unsaid because people have an almost superstitious fear of "saying anything against the pastors." Surely no one imagines their elders to be infallible, and what a disservice it is to them to let them continue unchallenged into dangerous territory! If everyone always tells them only what they wish to hear, will they not become like spoiled children who cannot bear to be contradicted? As public figures, their actions and decisions should be subjected to even closer scrutiny than laypeople's, and if they cry "discord!" every time they're disagreed with, they simply need to grow up.

You are spot on. And if that didn't come out in my post, I would like to clarify:

There is nothing wrong with discussing church leadership decisions or teaching among your brothers and sisters in the pew. Of course, that is more than permissible. What I was targeting is more of a disgruntled version of that. Such a person has little interest in discussion, but in something more sinister. He is not after sharpening his own iron and that of others, but recruiting an army of dissent. He makes no attempt to go to the pastor/elders at all, but goes only to others.
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Junior
It is never acceptable to disagree on established truth. Truth was and still is in some respects an ongoing realization. Today both baptism and eschatology are unsettled among the Reformed. The doctrine of the Trinity has been settled.
Example:
Before the Jerusalem council in Acts 15, differences of opinion over the Jewish laws were tolerated. The two sides both claimed to possess the truth. But after Acts 15 it was no longer a matter of opinion. The matter was settled. Therefore to teach the Gentiles to be circumcised and keep the Jewish law would be a chargeable offense. The Trinity debates came later after special revelation ceased and the Church established a definition of the Trinity that stands to this day.

I think also there are truths agreed upon by the Reformed Churches of the past that were attainments meant to be binding on future generations but have been voted against or simply ignored by a backsliding Church in our day.
Example: Once upon a time strict subscription to the Westminster Standards was binding on ministers (and usually the people as well). But now only the "system of doctrine" taught in the Confession is required. Exceptions abound.

Jesus clearly taught that revelation was ongoing in the early days.
John 16:12-14 (KJV)​
12 I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.​
13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.​
14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.​

The rule as always is as Philippians teach.
Philippians 3:16 (KJV)​
Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.​
 
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RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
It is never acceptable to disagree on established truth. Truth was and still is in some respects an ongoing realization. Today both baptism and eschatology are unsettled among the Reformed. The doctrine of the Trinity has been settled.
Example:
Before the Jerusalem council in Acts 15, differences of opinion over the Jewish laws were tolerated. The two sides both claimed to possess the truth. But after Acts 15 it was no longer a matter of opinion. The matter was settled. Therefore to teach the Gentiles to be circumcised and keep the Jewish law would be a chargeable offense. The Trinity debates came later after special revelation ceased and the Church established a definition of the Trinity that stands to this day.

I think also there are truths agreed upon by the Reformed Churches of the past that were attainments meant to be binding on future generations but have been voted against or simply ignored by a backsliding Church in our day.
Example: Once upon a time strict subscription to the Westminster Standards was binding on ministers (and usually the people as well). But now only the "system of doctrine" taught in the Confession is required. Exceptions abound.

Quick question in reference to Truth or perceived sin by the Elders. According to Presbyterian church polity what would happen if the congregation feels like a theological review needs to occur? For example, like you mention something gray area that let's say 30% of the congregation is concerned about. Can the congregation request the Assembly to engage? Would that be viewed as being acceptable or would they be viewed as being divisive?
 

Taylor Sexton

Puritan Board Junior
Quick question in reference to Truth or perceived sin by the Elders. According to Presbyterian church polity what would happen if the congregation feels like a theological review needs to occur? For example, like you mention something gray area that let's say 30% of the congregation is concerned about. Can the congregation request the Assembly to engage? Would that be viewed as being acceptable or would they be viewed as being divisive?

It depends on the denomination, since as far as I know every Presbyterian body has its own book of discipline and order. I am by no means an expert on my own denomination (OPC), but I believe if a minister were to be found in error, and he and the session did not respond to concerns in a way that satisfied the concerned lay person or group of lay people, they could submit an official complaint to the presbytery. If the presbytery does not satisfy the accusers, then I believe they can appeal to General Assembly.

Our resident OPC procedure expert, Dr. @Alan D. Strange, could chime in with much better and more detailed information, if he wishes.
 
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