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How to handle controversy in the church

I love learning. Lately though, it’s been muddied by doubt in the books I pick up, the teachings I hear and the blogs I read. This is a controversial time in our church history. I’m sure it always is to some extent, but I’m feeling it more now than at least I ever had before.

I can read back-to-back posts from one Christian saying “There is no way a real Christian voted for Hillary” followed by someone else who says “There is no way a real Christian voted for Trump”.

Don’t worry. This isn’t getting political.

My point is, where things have felt very black and white in the past, where knowledge felt very easy to grasp, it now feels more confusing. How can both Christians be right with such inflammatory statements?

A few weeks ago I stayed up till MIDNIGHT (um y’all, this is 3 hours past my bedtime) following a rabbit trail of posts on why certain well-known Christian authors were heretics.

It immediately made the ground I stand on feel shaky. Even though these authors were not my actual foundation (God and His Word are), it still caused so much unsettledness in my soul.

If you are feeling that angst right now or anticipating it, I wanted to share some tips on how to handle this confusing climate. And not just how we respond to controversy but how we avoid being at the center of it too.

Fun fact: I had this post all written out and happened to read 2 Timothy 2 in my quiet time and it is OVERFLOWING with truth on this very topic so I added several points. I have broken down some of the Scripture in the points below, but I highly recommend reading the whole chapter and several translations on your own! 

1. KNOW WHAT YOU WILL DIE FOR

Kind of jumping right in, aren’t we? My pastor, Dennis Malcolm, says that there are things we will talk about and debate, things we will fight for and things we will die for. We must know the difference. Not every believer will believe 100% the same things. That’s because we are human and can interpret the Bible differently. How many times are the big disagreements or blog posts shouting “heretic” over things that are not essential to the Gospel? Choose to step back from these things that have no bearing on eternity.

2. DO NOT NITPICK WORD CHOICES OR TONES

I’m pretty sure this would eliminate 80% of the arguments. When we look to be offended or when we look for someone to be wrong, we will probably find something in word choices or tone. As a writer, speaking terrifies me because I know I’m not eloquent and I will say something that doesn’t come across perfectly. Writing it out helps me plan it out better, but even still, I can be unclear, wish I had worded something differently and have something I said be taken the wrong way. This one goes in line with #1 in that we don’t need to make the small things controversial. 2 Timothy 2:14 (ESV) says “do not quarrel about words”. The Message translation warns against “pious nitpicking” saying “it just wears everyone out”. How true is this! 

3. DO NOT MAKE AN IDOL OF ANY INFLUENCER

I’ll admit it. I used to do this. I’d fan girl hard and eat up everything someone said. Then, I peaked behind the curtain and lose all faith in someone. Honestly, not because of anything they did, but because my expectation of them was so much higher than it should have been. Use caution when listening to anyone. Back to 2 Timothy 2, Paul names Hymenaeus and Philetus as leading believers astray when they swerved from the truth. I can’t help but think that the ones swayed were too impressionable and not seeking the Lord’s ultimate truth, but instead relied too heavily on Hymenaeus and Philetus for wisdom. And when they were wrong, their foundation wasn’t strong enough to even think to question it. 

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