why it's ok (and sometimes important) to disagree
In ministry, we work with people. You have senior staff to answer to and collaborate with. You have your team of adult volunteers to consider. And of course there are students and their parents. With so many people's opinion to consider, how do you keep everyone in agreement?
Well, the truth is, you can't. And that's not a bad thing. Let me explain . . .
When it comes to working on a team, it's OK, and sometimes important, to disagree. Now, you may be saying, wait a minute, Andy. That's not exactly what Scripture says. In this case you'd have a point . . .
- 1 Peter 3:8 says, "Finally, all of you, have unity of mind . . ."
- In Acts 4:32, Luke writes, “All the believers were one in heart and mind . . .”
- In 1 Corinthians 10:10 Paul urges his audience to be “perfectly united in mind and thought.”
- 2 Corinthians 13:11 has Paul giving this command: “ . . . listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace . . .”
- Paul also says in Philippians 2:2 that he would be overjoyed if the Philippian Christ-followers would only be “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.”
So, what is it? If we're commanded to be united in our thoughts, how is there room for disagreement? And how can disagreement be positive? First things first, I'm not 100% sure that these passages speak to the fact that we should all agree with one another on every issue. I believe these passages speak to the concept that the Big C church, the global body of believers, should hold to a baseline of faith that must be held by all Christ-followers. This has to do with the importance of the Church being united in its desire to see God’s Kingdom realized on this earth. And I believe the primary application from these passages is directed at local congregations. There is absolutely no place for division in the local body.
So, is there a difference between division and disagreement? I think there is. Division is bad. Disagreement is OK. Check this out . . .
Paul himself makes it pretty clear that believers won't hold the same convictions. His whole discussion in Romans 14 speaks to this. Paul was talking about food sacrificed to idols, but there are tons of modern day applications for this. Paul seems to think there is room for differing opinions regarding the details. I look at it this way: We all better be on the same page with the stuff that is black and white. There is room for differing opinions about the gray. Unity of mind and heart is important. But as William Barclay says, “There is room enough in God’s Kingdom for different opinions.” And you'll have plenty of different opinions about how to run your ministry. (A fact not lost on you, at all!)
But disagreement can be extremely positive, when done right . . .
- Disagreement can introduce us to new thoughts about God
- Disagreement can open us up to different ways to get things done
- Disagreement can lead to new opportunities for people to be empowered and expand their ownership in our ministries
- Disagreement can be a perfect laboratory for learning the important lessons of humility
- And finally, disagreement can actually help you realize that you are in fact (gulp) wrong about something :)
So, are there some tips for how to have healthy disagreement within our ministries? I think there are . . .
Do Your Homework
Healthy disagreement comes when different opinions are founded on Scripture. Now, we can read the Bible and disagree with the exact application of it. But the point is that your position not be based on emotion or motivated by any agenda. If you find yourself disagreeing, make sure you go to the Bible and form a position based on a right study of God's Word.
State Your Position Respectfully
Disagreement happens. But if we can remember to be respectful of the other people involved when we get the opportunity to state our position, we'll find that disagreement doesn't have to derail our ministry or our relationships. Know your position and state it respectfully.
Hear the other person or people out. Don't listen with an ear toward refuting them. Don't be building your argument while they talk. Just listen. And communicate in your body language and verbal responses that you are indeed listening. Don't feel like you have to respond immediately. You can take a moment to process once they are done talking.
Be Prepared For Action
Your position might win the day! Don't be caught flat footed. Have a plan to move from the idea stage to action. Go in expecting to move forward adapting some or all of your position.
Be Prepared For Nothing
At the end of the day, you might find that your position was not taken up. Be prepared for this to happen. Be prepared to get on board with the direction of the team or leader with whom you disagree, even if it's not fun. (Obviously, you can't compromise your core convictions or go directly against a biblical command. This post is really about the gray areas of personal conviction. If you find yourself being asked to go along with something that is immoral or unethical, the best thing you can do is to find a new place to minister, or seek to bring the issue to light with others in leadership.)
What have you learned over the years that have helped you have healthy disagreements with those you do ministry with? I'd love to hear your thoughts.