You may have heard the expression, “There’s no fight like a church fight.” It’s both true and sad. I want to ask myself if a certain issue is really worth dying on a hill for. An early mentor of mine told me, “Major in the majors and minor in the minors. Don’t major in the minors.”
That is to say, Dave, don’t spend your energy and time fighting over things that, in the long run, are not really going to make a difference or help us advance the gospel and make disciples of all the nations.
Just let it go!
One way for me to discern what’s worth fighting over or not is to ask myself if the issue at stake is for me a matter of biblical convictions or a matter of personal preference? I can easily get the two confused. I want to hang tightly to biblical convictions and be willing to let go of personal preferences.
The choice of worship songs would be a classic example. I have my preferences on the kind of music I like, but I will not go to war or leave a church if they are not singing my kind of songs; but some people have and still do.
I believe that everything in the Bible is true, but I also believe that everything which is true is not in the Bible. There are lots of issues that the average church or Christian group or organization deals with where there are no specific guidelines or instruction in the Bible and it’s okay to have different positions within the parameters of biblical principles.
“One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” Romans 14:5 (ESV). The entire 14th chapter of Romans deals with not judging others for holding certain opinions that the Bible doesn’t directly address.
- What should the format of a typical weekend service look like?
- What kind of music should be used in a weekend service?
- Which church polity should we follow?
- How is communion to be served and how often?
- How should decisions be made in a local church?
- What kind of preaching format should be followed…character study, thematic, expository?
- How should leaders be identified and developed?
- What about the nature of membership or partnership in a local church?
The above list are areas where mature believers down through the ages have come to different conclusions. There is no one right answer to these and a myriad of other questions where the Bible is not explicitly clear so that we can have varying opinions and preferences based on our prior experiences, family of origin and what we have read and studied.
The late Howard Hendricks of Dallas Seminary used to say that some people have hardening of the categories (as opposed to hardening of the arteries). It’s good to have a few gray crayons in your Crayola box and not just black and white ones. Be black and white where the Bible is black and white and be gray where the Bible is gray. We could save ourselves a lot of unnecessary church fights by just giving people a bit more grace to our fellow believers in the “Non-Essentials.” Try not to have an unmovable opinion or preference on every issue where the Bible is not clear.
It takes some think time but is well worth the effort to ask myself this question before I go to war on an issue. Is this really a strong biblical conviction of mine based on the clear teaching of Scripture, or is it rather my preference on which I could compromise for the sake of unity and peace in the family. I have seen churches divide over the dumbest of issues where a little love, grace and understanding could have avoided an unnecessary “fight.”
At the close of his life, Paul tells Timothy, “I have fought the good fight.” (2 Timothy 4:7 ESV). I don’t believe that a fight can be a good one, but can rather be a bad one if it is being fought over non-essential, gray, personal preference issues. It’s a crying shame for His church to be arguing over how to bake bread when the world is starving for food.
Please pick your battles carefully and prayerfully before you decide to go to war!