I thought a reminder via a post written originally five years ago might be in order.
What do you do when there is disagreement in doctrine between people on the same staff?
I'm not speaking of disagreement over essentials that have to do with those things necessary for salvation or eternity to be assured. 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] Things like this are essential for redemption and eternity and are not up for rejection.
I'm speaking of the non-essentials. By using 'non-essentials' I'm not saying 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 of all these. I lean toward [in fact I embrace] God having worked by His Grace and any abilities toward spiritual things are the result of His Grace being experienced not the cause. But my point is...I came to all this understanding after I became a believer... not before.
However, the unique situation of which I speak is when there are two guys/gals on the same staff who disagree over those non-essentials. How do you work together with integrity with differences? It has happened ...to me...several times on several staffs. 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 to remember.
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...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] sees 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 hold now the position he held then, not because the text has changed, but because my understanding 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...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 about that.
[I don't personally hold to the view that total abstinence is taught in the text of scripture as the biblical standard by the way. However, drunkenness IS forbidden in scripture.]
But by mutual consent we felt it was best for us as a staff to practice abstinence while on that staff in order to more effectively minister to those students. [It was the Romans 14:13-15 principle.] A couple of people had to defer [myself included] 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. It was shared for information only. But the congregation learned 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...
a) Agreement on the essentials...
b) A right spirit/attitude toward people who differ on everything else...
c) 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.
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 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.