It seems like now more than ever the people of God have differing beliefs on politics, values, & worldview. Honestly, I’m kinda here for it though.
This is a really healthy thing for all of us to interact with because it forces us to process why we believe what we believe!
Why you believe what you believe is something we all must continually wrestle with because – what if what we believe is definitively wrong?
Your context shapes who you are and what you believe. Just because it feels rationale doesn’t mean it’s actually true, or right, or “good” (as God intended – Genesis 1). It just means it aligns with the values of your context & worldview. This is proven over and over again in the things that people have done in the name of God that years removed we look back on in disbelief.
(If you have no idea what I’m talking about, read up on Antisemitism in Christianity, Christianity & Domestic Violence, Christianity’s Endorsement of Slavery, Forced Conversions, & The Holy Inquisition. WARNING: it’s heavy!)
As Kingdom people, we must live our lives in surrender to examining & implementing what scripture calls us to regardless of its implications.
The more I gave my life to this process the more I began to see how the values that my community & I held did not align with the life & teachings of Jesus.
You might be thinking: If this article is about how to lead people I disagree with, then why is he talking about this?
Because we must become intimately familiar with how easy it is to believe something that doesn’t align with the life of Christ. A) To keep us in check & surrendered to the cross. B) To give us grace & empathy for those who also can easily fall out of alignment.
Examining & implementing everything scripture calls us to is a lifelong, never-ending process that if we stop continually engaging with it, we’ll quickly veer off the road that’s headed towards Jesus.
So now, here are 5 thoughts I want to submit to you that I believe must shape our approach to leading people that we disagree with.
Keep Your Pride & Passion in Check
One of the most immature things a leader can believe is that they’ve got it all figured out. It’s rarely ever a conscious thought, but it’s often proven in their posture.
I’ll be the first to say GUILTY!
I’ll never forget, going to college and discovering some of the errors in a few of the ways my parents raised me. When that discovery took place I found myself constantly thinking, “Well if they were wrong about those things, what if they’re wrong about it all?!” And it sent me into this mindset where if it made sense & seemed logical to me, it must be absolute truth!
The wild thing about that kind of approach to belief is it’s something we all do.
We’re just as human as those we lead & we’re just as easily influenced by our context & community.
We all see the world through our own filters & those filters are beautiful, but sometimes a filter, when influenced too much by a certain element, causes things to look much different than they truly are.
This is why we must keep our pride in check￼. No matter how old we grow, we are all just as prone to assuming what seems logical is right & true. More importantly, this points back to why we must diligently￼ ￼examine & implement scripture into our lives.
Sidenote: I’ve since gone back and looked at those “earth-shattering” discoveries I made in college & lol’d at how confident yet ignorant I was (and for that matter, I am still). Have you ever had a moment like this? If not, get ready!
Another common character trait of a leader is – passion.
Passion is a gift that can rally people towards a cause like no other.
But something we must be conscious of is the dark side of passion. When it comes to people’s gifts, Pastor & LPC, Brent Sharpe, says it like this, “every gift has a dark side.”
The dark side of passion is it can cause us to run towards things void of tact and/or truth.
I can get really passionate about what I believe. And like pride, sometimes my passion blinds me from recognizing the truth in other’s beliefs & the errors in mine.
Additionally, we must remember that the wrong method can ruin the right message.
What we believe & say can 100% reflect the heart of God, but if the method is off not only will not be received, but it can cause a lot of damage too.
Like Paul admonishes the church at Corinth, we must ensure that we are motivated by love & love is present even in our approach.
Give Others a Voice
Leadership means you have a voice. Don’t abuse your place of influence and accidentally create a culture of intimidation and squashing.
A community becomes a cult when the leader’s revelations and opinions are held above all others.
Crazy enough too, this is very easy territory to fall into. Think about all those crazy Netflix docu-series out there. I dare to say the majority of those individuals didn’t initially set out to create a cult, but where one voice is elevated above all others in a way that doesn’t allow for others to disagree is dangerous ground.
Now more than likely you haven’t created a culture that reflects a cult (at least hopefully not). Nor is it wrong for people’s voices to be valued and respected. I know what it’s like to lead in places where your opinion is held in high regard.
Being esteemed for your wisdom is not a bad thing. We just must be intentional to not cause people to develop a dependency upon our insights.
As Kingdom leaders, we are called to mature people from dependency upon our revelation (milk) to discovering Truth for themselves (meat). (If, you’re confused why I just mentioned food, Hebrews 5:12-14)
This is what it looks like to push people to develop their own personal relationship with the Lord, community of sharpening one another, & equipping them with the tools necessary for understanding His word.
If you’ve done that well, then that means you inevitably will have a culture where disagreement is present. Which is beautiful, so long as our anchor & common ground is in the life and image of Jesus.
Here’s something I believe wholeheartedly – nothing pushes people to step into the process of developing their own relationship with the Lord like creating a culture of dialoguing differences. The key is how we go about dialoguing.
If this is something you want to step into, here’s a conversation I’d love to challenge you to facilitate.
“I want to have a conversation about where we are at in culture. How we go about that is crucial. So I want to hear what are your personal beliefs about ________ & how do you see the life of Jesus affirming it?”
I believe that the second part of the question is the most crucial component of these conversations. Again, we are Kingdom people called to pledge allegiance to the cross above the star-spangled banner (or anything else that we deeply love and value) & it’s so easy to blur the line between the two.
Don’t Just Listen with Your Ears, but with Your Posture Too
You can tell someone that you want to hear their opinion, but as a leader, if you are not in a posture of receptivity it’s probably better not to ask for their opinion at all.
Nothing’s more belittling than experiencing a leader that doesn’t value your thoughts and opinions. Especially when they ask for them. What causes someone to believe they aren’t valued is when they aren’t truly being heard.
Quick rebuttals & dismissive body language and comments communicates to others that their story and where they are at is inferior and invalid.
Not only is this a terrible way to lead, but it’s a dishonoring and surefire way to destroy any sort of trust & receptivity you once held with someone. This applies in all types of relationships, not just leadership.
What if You’re Wrong & They’re Right?
I know I’ve implied this throughout the post, but it’s gotta be said point-blank.
As leaders, we are called to point people to the life and teachings of Jesus. He is our compass, guide, and lens. It is incredibly easy for our personal beliefs and filters to be influenced by other sources than Jesus.
Facebook posts, news articles, conversations, cultural beliefs, family of origin, biases, experiences, etc. all shape what we believe. WAY MORE THAN WE REALIZE.
So we must intentionally wrestle and align our lives with the ever beautiful and age-old maxim:
“What Would Jesus Do?”
Here’s the thing with that maxim, just because you are the leader doesn’t automatically mean that your life reflects Jesus more than everyone else you lead. I would dare to say there are areas of your life that women and men on your team reflect Jesus more than you do. Again, guilty!
Talk about a tough pill to swallow!
This comes back to keeping your pride in check. Admitting our faults and wrongs in leadership can be a very deflating thing, but very few things will influence your team’s trust in you & create a healthy culture like an admission of a wrong.
Uniformity & Unity are NOT the Same Thing
At the end of the day, there’s going to be some difference of opinion.
But we must be careful to not fall prey to the belief that says a community that disagrees is a community that is divided.
If uniformity was the prerequisite to being used by God, then He couldn’t use any of us. We are simply called to run after Jesus as true to His word as we know how to.
That’s why I love what St. Augustine once said:
“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” – St. Augustine
The third part is the crux of that entire statement: We have to continually give grace & approach one another with love & humility.
Disagreement within the church has taken place since the ascension of Jesus. No, this does not give us an excuse to hold onto beliefs that don’t align with His heart. But it should cause us to give grace to those that are on the road to discovering what His heart calls us to.
In Jesus’ final prayer He said, “I pray that they all will be one, just as you and I are one. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” (John 17:21)
Our unity proves His sovereignty.
Right now, maybe more than ever before in our lifetime, that is one of the hardest things to want to do. I’ll be the first person to say, I don’t desire unity with those I disagree with. It’s much easier to dismiss and move on with my life. But Christ calls us to bridge the gap between our differing views, build relationships with those we disagree with, & work towards uniting His church.
If we can do that, we will show the world not only what healthy disagreement looks like, but what true love looks like.
The image of love is what the world needs to see & love is proven in how you lead those you disagree with.
Grace on you as you approach leading well here in the wildness that is 2021. But also, I hope you’re kinda stoked too, because there is no better time than right now to show people what true unity & love in action looks like.
May you be known by your love & may the love of the Father working through you draw all of us closer to His heart.
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