Here is a reality about life: just because people choose to label themselves a title, does not mean that they always agree with what that title might suggest.
A good example of this is politics. In the Unites States, there are Democrats, Republicans, Green Party, etc… It is a rare instance when I meet someone who believes the Democrat or Republican way of thinking through and through. There are always a few things that they differ in a certain political way of thinking.
I find this is often true in religion as well. I believe and agree with a lot of what my church teaches. But there are a few things that I struggle with and I find I cannot agree with at this point of my life. In fact, most Christians I talk to are in the same situation.
Where it differs for you and me is that, as ministry leaders, we represent the church we work and minister for.
Can I disagree with the church that I represent?
The short answer is yes. However, just because I disagree with a certain teaching does not mean I have the freedom to share those thoughts everywhere I go. I do have a responsibility to my church to represent its teachings accurately.
Am I a hypocrite if I accurately teach what the church holds to be truth even though I disagree with it?
Over my ministry career, I have settled on a few strategies that have helped me stay true to my personal beliefs, but also honestly and accurately represent what the church teaches.
- Withhold my opinions at large group sessions that I am leading. Just because I am up front leading a discussion does not mean that I need to share my honest opinions all the time. I want those that I minister to to understand all sides of the issue. I want to accurately present what the church believes, but also promote dialogue, knowing that there are others in the room that might be struggling with a certain truth. I recognize that if I share my opinion, I can sway the way others think simply because I am the leader. People may value my opinion, but I really encourage others to be independent thinkers and not believe something just because I say it is true.
- Let others teach on the subject matter. Part of my role as a leader is to empower and equip other leaders to step up in ministry and take a lead. This may be a great opportunity to do that. When I disagree on a certain church teaching, I sometimes let other leaders take the lead.
- Be careful of what I say on social media. Just because my Facebook and Twitter accounts are personal accounts and not part of my official ministry position, people still know me as a ministry leader. Even on my blog, I have to choose how I represent myself carefully. No matter where I am on social media, I represent my church.
- Share my personal opinions with trusted friends or in a small group. I always share my true and honest opinions with those that are closest to me. I trust them and they understand where I am coming from. They may not agree with me, but there is an accountability that we have together. It is in these settings where I can truly explore the issue further and come to some clarity around what I believe. The youth night or bible study I am leading is not the appropriate place to do that.
I make it sound like this happens all the time. The fact is that there are many things I absolutely agree with what my church teaches. Even still, for the things that I disagree, there have been times that my mind has been changed. That is a part of life. As we grow and learn, we think differently about issues.
As ministry leaders, it is good to be cautious about how we represent our views, especially if we disagree with our church.
Question: What strategies do you use when you find yourself in this situation?