Sunday, November 17, 2013


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 life, be assured. Coming to know how much Jesus loves me and that He was willing to die in my place and believing that who He is, and what He did completed what was necessary to deal with my sin as evidenced by an empty tomb, [Faith] are essentials for redemption and eternity and are not up for rejection or denial.

I'm speaking of the non-essentials. By using 'non-essentials' I'm not saying un-important things, just things not necessary for salvation to be experienced.

Things like 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 or foreknowledge is God choosing me before time because He determined to for reasons known only to Him, or He saw before hand that I would somehow come to choose Him.

Whether repentance and faith are my non-meritorious responses alone and bring regeneration 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 to produce any abilities toward spiritual things and those abilities are the result of His Grace being experienced, not the cause. But I came to all this understanding after I became a believer and not before. An understanding of issues such as these are unrelated to salvation being real for me.

However, the unique situation of which I'm speaking is when there are two guys/gals, on the same staff, who might disagree over those kinds of non-essentials. How do you work together with integrity with differences like that?

It has happened_to me_several times_ on several staffs.

As a result, I developed a certain way [method] of handling it. My way is certainly 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. 

The first thing to remember___ is that 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 must be free to teach their understanding. 

An Education minister on my staff had a different view of divorce and remarriage than mine. One day I asked him to preach in my absence. We happened to be 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? " he asked. I said, "It's simple, you teach how you see it and be honest enough to mention that I [Bro. Paul] see it a bit differently, but that we respect each other as brothers in the Lord, in spite of our differences on this issue"

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 has changed as I've studied it. Our being free to search and share our understanding of truth without fear was a major factor in maintaining true liberty while on staff together.

The second thing to remember___is that sometimes as a staff, it might be beneficial to agree to take a position on a non-essential as a standard for the staff, knowing some staff member or members may have to adjust to something he or she doesn't hold to personally, but must be willing to adjust 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.

While ALL staff members agreed that scriptures condemned drunkenness, some held that moderation instead of abstinence was the true biblical position, at least as they saw it. 

[I, for example, don't personally hold to the view that total abstinence is taught in the text of scripture as the biblical standard. However, I do believe that drunkenness IS forbidden in scripture.] 

But by mutual consent we, as a staff, felt it was best for us 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 at that particular church.

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 a non-issue. It was shared for information only.

But the congregation 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 on non-essentials 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 in reality...practical and good for the work. Nothing else.

6. If there is a church policy on the non-essential, follow it or don't join that staff.

7. 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 authority comes from the anointing of the Holy Spirit rather than a position I might hold about some non-essential. But because I take seriously the command to not Lord it over the flock, I chose this method. 

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.

Paul B


Aussie John said...


So good, my friend! So well said!

“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

I know you could have easily quoted it!

I'm doing so simply to make the point that even when claiming to practice these great principles, so many cannot agree to disagree on what it means, or who actually said it!

I think sinful man has a bent towards
One-Upmanship, with pride convincing each as being an expert who has an inherent need to gain the higher ground against others in matters of belief and practice, rather than a sincere belief in what they are arguing for.

What think ye?

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

What do I think?

" I think sinful man has a bent towards One-Upmanship, with pride convincing each as being an expert who has an inherent need to gain the higher ground against others in matters of belief and practice, rather than a sincere belief in what they are arguing for."

I think what you think and have written may very well be the core of what drives most theological arguments. How sad is that!

Victorious said...

I also do not believe this negates teaching the whole counsel of God authoritatively.

But doesn't the "whole counsel" of God include those non-essentials? So, the one who is evidently anointed will teach or preach from their perspective and understanding. That, then, becomes the perceived position of that church/fellowship. That, in turn, makes the non-essential appear as an essential, doesn't it?

It seems to me that the non-essentials make up the bulk of rules and regulations in churches' "What We Believe" statements complete with scriptural references yanked from historical context but that reflect the anointed one's position. Usually no "feel free to disagree" disclaimer follows.

I realize your post primarily focuses on a staff perspective and mine from a congregational perspective, so perhaps my questions miss your intended target.

Paul Burleson said...


Thanks as always for commenting.

"That, then, becomes the perceived position of that church/fellowship. That, in turn, makes the non-essential appear as an essential, doesn't it?"

My answer is "No, it doesn't." At least from my perspective.

I'm not aware of anything that would indicate that when someone teaches under an anointing that it automatically means their teaching is to be received as the position of all. Not even an elder should be able to speak without examination.

In fact, I'm thinking all believers are to search the scriptures for themselves to make certain of what is being said IS WHAT the scripture means.

Some things are more important than others. Any issue dealing with matters of salvation supersedes all others. Matters of discipleship and guidance for believers are important, just not to the level of salvation issues.

Take for example, a christian suing another christian in a court of law. We would agree that it is of the non-essential category meaning you can miss this with your understanding and go to heaven.

But you can't miss the Person and Work of Christ, for example, and enjoy any assurance of that same place in eternity. You HAVE to be right there.

No one is saying the former is not important in it's own right, It just isn't salvation issues.

Victorious said...

Thanks for that clarification, Paul!