Several bloggers have today posted words or thoughts written a year ago just prior to or after the Convention in 2006. I think most of their posts that I've read are good and bore repeating and I wish to do the same. What follows is what was said on this blog one year ago today.
My reasoning is that if something is worth saying one time it probably bears repeating. I've approached preaching with the same philosophy in the past at times.
My honest reasoning is also it will save me a lot of thought and work which reprieve I need after spending the past several days in Austin Texas.
But upon reflection, maybe the first is really the reason. [I don't know...all of this may be nothing more than a classic case of self-justification.] :)
Thursday, June 01, 2006
Essentials and Non-Essentials
What do you do when there is disagreement? I'm not speaking of disagreement over essentials that have to do with those things necessary for salvation or eternity. These certainly include things like knowing how sinful I am [repentance] and resting in how much Jesus loves me and was willing to die in my place and, in light of who He is, believing that completed what was necessary to deal with my sin as evidenced by an empty tomb. [Faith]
Those kinds of things are essential for redemption and eternity whether one is nine or ninety.
I'm speaking of the non-essentials. Not unimportant things, just things not necessary for salvation to be experienced. These might include whether Adam was Federal head and I was present in him when the fall happened or whether I'm lost by my own choice or any combination thereof. Whether Jesus was Impeccable or could have sinned when tempted. Whether election is God choosing me before time because He determined to, or, seeing I would choose Him, chose me because of that foreknowledge.Whether repentance and faith are my responses alone or whether I can repent and believe only because the Holy Spirit has worked regeneration already in me and repentance and faith are the evidences of new birth rather than the causes of new birth.
I have my own understanding. I lean toward [in fact I embrace] God having worked by His Grace and my abilities toward spiritual things are the result of His Grace being experienced not the cause. My point is...I came to all this understanding after I became a believer... not before.
However, the unique disagreement of which I speak is when there are two guys/gals on the same staff who disagree over the non-essentials. How does this work? It has happened ...to me...several times. I developed a certain way [method] of handling it. My way is not sacred and maybe not even the best way. But it is my way and I'll share it for what it's worth.
Two things, I believe, are important. One is each staff person must be free to investigate and research scripture to grow personally in their understanding of the nuances of doctrine without fear AND to teach their understanding. An example of this would be an Education minister on my staff had a different view of divorce and remarriage than mine. I asked him to preach in my absence. We were at a particular place in Matthew where divorce was being addressed. So I asked him to deal with that passage if he would. He was perplexed and even concerned. He saw it differently than did I. "How can I do the that? " was his question. I said, "You teach how you see it and be honest enough to mention that I [Bro. Paul] see it a bit differently but we respect each other as brothers in the Lord." Then I suggested he encourage the people to search on their own. He did and they did.
Interestingly, twenty-five years later, I now hold the position he held then, not because the text has changed but because my understanding of the text has changed as I've studied. That's one of the two important things I wish to mention. We were both free to search and share our understanding of Truth without fear.
The second is when, for whatever reason, it is good to agree as a staff on a non-essential as a standard for the staff, knowing some one will have to adjust to something he/she doesn't hold to personally, be willing to do it for practical reasons. An example of this is I pastored a church near a University where drinking was a problem on campus. We chose as a staff to agree that abstinence would be our [the staff] standard. This was not based on agreement on the text of scripture because there were differences of opinion there. But by mutual consent we felt it was best for us as a staff to do it this way in order to more effectively minister to those students. A couple of people had to defer and abstinence was our practical policy while on staff there.
This was shared with our church. We had no established church policy in regards to abstinence as we had developed our own church covenant and that particular non-essential was not an issue. Drunkenness was a no-no of course, but not the idea of total abstinence. Our adoption of total abstinence was shared as information only. But the congregation learned from all this and was encouraged as they saw the method we followed to come to our agreement on what was best when good people stood on different sides of theological issues that are not essential to salvation and eternity.
I could give a multitude of other examples but post length will not permit.
My bottomline in all this is multiple...
1. People differ on non-essentials.
2. People who differ can work together.
3. No one should have to be quiet about their differences.
4. Respect for another's position is important.
5. When a policy is decided upon because it is best for the work... don't make the basis for it scriptural if there are good people on both sides of the issue theologically. Make it what it is...practical and good for the work.
6. Real unity is based on at least these factors...
1) Agreement on the essentials...
2) A right spirit/attitude toward people who differ on everything else...
3) A willingness to have ALL share their views and, when necessary, choose a path that is best for the work by mutual agreement with all being heard and respected.
I think this might be good for a family or a congregation as well as a staff. [Maybe even a denomination.] I also do not believe this negates teaching the whole counsel of God authoritatively. I happen to believe in authority coming from the annointing of the Holy Spirit rather than a pastoral position because I take seriously the command to not Lord it over the flock.
But, as I said, this practical approach is not sacred [though undergirded by biblical principles] nor perhaps even the best way, but it is mine...and God has, by His grace, blessed it.