Things might get better or they might get worse. But can we really afford to not be Biblical simply by “keeping the peace?” Ministry is hard, very hard! We can recall the countless men in all of history that have had a hard times in ministry. Men who have given their entire lives to their perspective ministries, only to see it tore down and destroyed. Charles Spurgeon is one example of a man who has seen God move in great measures, yet when the down grade controversy came, down went his ministry. Not due to him, but because of men of influence. Yet there are men in our day who have experienced such trials that resulted in them being forced from their pulpits. Men such as Dr. Steven Lawson. He was forced to fight against his own people/church over issues of truth. Now he is pastoring a very passionate, Christ-Centered, and people-loving Church who have a mind for the truth. But it doesn’t always end this way.
The fact is, when we stand on truth (with conviction) then we are setting ourselves up for a hard time down the road. It may work in our favor, but it may not. We are only promised that there are wheat’s and tares & goats and sheep who are in the church. I think of Scripture like 2Tim 3:12 “Indeed, all those who desire to live passive Godly will be persecuted.” The context is speaking of the Last Days. It’s likely speaking of things that will happen in the Church (i.e. holding to a form of Godliness yet rejecting it’s power, always learning yet never able to come to the knowledge of the truth, etc…).
Truth be told I’m probably preaching to the choir on this one… that is – Ministry is not for the faint hearted, or weak minded, but for those with thick skin and lots of backbone! But the question is still at hand. How far is too far? When we care for people and we want them to have harmony, love truth, and worship passionately how far are we willing to go to see this happen? We try our hardest to put up with all kinds of trivial stuff. Do we (for the sake of the Gospel and the Church) allow others to dictate what we preach? Do we water down the truth (put the cookies on the bottom shelf) in order for others to get it? Or is there not really a “one size fits all.” Do we not make a big deal of sin because we don’t want controversy? We understand that the Church is going to grow by preaching the Word, and teaching those hard truths in a way that they can understand. But is it wise to compromise? If so to what degree? Where is the line? Can one say for sure? Does it change from Church to Church?
The Scriptures do tell us that there is a time to be silent and I time to speak (Ecc. 3:7). There is good wisdom in patience as well. In fact, 2 Tim 4:2 states that we are to preach the Word… “with great patience…!” We could look at many more verses that teach similar principles. We know that there are some definite things that the church needs to be pure from (drunkenness, adultery, etc…) but what about other things that are umbilical? What about leadership or Church membership, or what about someone in the congregation that openly opposes you? How far is too far?
You got to admit it is really nice to hear others step into positions were those battles have already been fought. They focus with great clarity on winning the price, with no concern of Church members or Church leaders rebelling against them. I have friends on staff of these churches and I am excited for them. But as for us pastors who are barely full-time (in pay that is), pastoring churches that do not have a Christian worldview and are extremely pragmatic in philosophy and practice… how much to we bend? Not bending will get you a ticket out (and is really not wise), but bending to much will ticket your integrity (if you know what I mean). Now some would argue that keeping the peace is being Biblical. We must understand that there is a time to fight for what is right and a time for peace. One thing is for sure - doing nothing has never worked.
I am working through much of this. Patience is a necessity but integrity is as well. We must stand on truth (with love) but not be so militant that we can’t love and teach others by example. The last thing a pastor wants is to flip a church upside down… but sometimes a church can be so backwards that to flip it upside down will actually set it right-sideup! One of my mentors said we must have courage with compassion. I concur!
I remind myself that we are His ambassadors and we must walk in wisdom, being wise as serpents and innocent as doves, with our eyes on the prize, not considering our lives as dear to ourselves in order that we may finish the course and the ministry that our Lord gave us, lest we labor in vain!