I work with a lot of different churches from a lot of different theological persuasions. Just yesterday I met with a pastor I really enjoy and respect, but with whom I have many differences of theology. Throughout his discussion with me about issues in his church, or problems different people are facing, or even in discussing the church as a whole in this country, there are times where I cringe because I fundamentally disagree with his opinions.
What is difficult in these interactions is knowing when to speak up and actually vocally disagree, when to just mention that there may be other views on the topic, and when I should completely keep my mouth shut. Sometimes I walk this balance well, other times I’m not so sure. Most of the time my opinion on a secondary issue (i.e. not the gospel) is of little importance. If he agreed with my view on something he might interact differently or think differently about a situation, but my goal as a missionary is not to bring everyone in to my fold of theological thinking. My goal is to point people to Jesus. And sometimes that means specifically allowing locals to chase the Lord in a way different than I would. But it isn’t always easy. And even more difficult is knowing when holding my tongue is going to cause even bigger conflict down the line.
As a general rule, I try to balance my speaking up with the quality of the fruit the church is producing. In my meeting yesterday I have many disagreements with this pastor, but I can work with him easily because I’m so profoundly impressed with the quality of their church’s fruit. I don’t spend much time worrying about their methodology (even though some of it drives me batty) because their people are walking boldly and blatantly in the grace of the Lord. They understand the gospel and are living it out in their church and in the world. As a result, I don’t need to butt in very much with concern over secondary theological issues. However when a church leader is struggling with his marriage, or his people are dealing with sin or false teaching it’s harder to hold my tongue when disagreements arise. If the fruit the church is producing is scary to me, I speak up. And if a pastor is failing to live, preach, or believe the gospel, that’s not something I ever let slide.