A couple weeks ago a man in our congregation disagreed with a decision by our elders. (Thus far, nothing new.) He made his disagreement known. (Again, unsurprising.) But in the process of hearing his concerns, I realized something different was going on: I didn't feel guarded, my stomach wasn't in knots, I was open to what he was saying, and I didn't feel like I was being attacked.
Upon reflecting on this odd state of affairs, I realized my friend's disagreement was a model of how to express disagreement with spiritual leaders. It was a model I wished I had known in the past and one I hope others can learn from even now. Here's what he did that was so helpful.
First, he asked for more leadership, not less. "I need direction on this issue," he wrote. Knowing him assured me these weren't empty words--he really was interested in understanding our decision more deeply. He really was open to being instructed and even approached our disagreement with the assumption there was something he didn't yet understand.
Second, he used questions in addition to statements. Partly because he was open to learning more about our thinking, partly because it is just good conversational skill, he asked several questions in addition to clearly stating his thinking. The result of this was me being able to represent the elders' thinking rather than being forced to argue solely against his position.
Third, he proposed useful solutions, even ones that involved compromises on both sides. I'm not yet sure if we're going to take up his suggested proposals, but to have a positive idea to ponder rather than a problem alone is a forward-thinking, helpful experience for everyone involved.
Almost every Christian invested in their church family is going to disagree with the elders at some point. When you feel it's necessary to address those disagreements, you could do a lot worse than following my friend's example: seek more leadership, ask lots of questions, and propose practical solutions. Such a Christian goes a long way to obeying Hebrews 13:17, "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you."
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