Unity or Uniformity?
As seminary students, we realize a mantra that matters much in church life is “IN ESSENTIALS UNITY, IN NON-ESSENTIALS LIBERTY, IN ALL THINGS CHARITY.” We believe this and know this to be true. This is why we have had conferences like Together for the Gospel and can have debates regarding Baptism and church polity. We can agree to disagree on many doctrines within our local congregation and that is a good thing. My concern is not so much with the body as it is with the staff and leadership found therein. This applies to most of our readers at Going to Seminary since most of us will be involved in a leadership role in the local church.
According to Merriam-Webster online, unity is defined as “A condition of harmony.” The staff must strive to be unified as they seek to lead the church. There is room for doctrinal disagreement, but there cannot be room for disagreement regarding the vision for the church or for that matter what the role of each staff member is. If there is, there is “trouble a-brewin’” as one of my good friends likes to say.
Satan can use the disunity to sneak into the church and disrupt everything. From off-hand, inconsequential remarks to outright sabotage, Satan will use the disagreements to his advantage. May this never be!
One way this can be avoided is to be humble enough to be honest with one another. Humility and honesty should be hallmarks of a church staff. Unfortunately, this is not often the case. If you have a problem with your pastor, you need to be able to take that problem to him and discuss it without it blowing up into a huge altercation. If you are the pastor, you need to make yourself open and available to critique. This must be done in more than word. You need to show yourself humble and react appropriately to the critique listening to what is said and not be so quick to defend yourself.
Uniformity is defined as “the quality or state of being uniform.” Uniform means, “having always the same form, manner, or degree” or “consistent in conduct or opinion.”
The problem really turns ugly when the senior pastor–a.k.a. chief undershepherd–oh wait, that’s Christ!–recognizes a disunity and basically commands for what he calls “unity” but in all actuality is “uniformity.” Most are not as blatant about uniformity as this, but it seems to be very easy to think your call for uniformity is actually a call to unity.
As “pastors-in-training,” we must be aware that we, too, will fall into this trap at some point. As leaders of a particular ministry (music, youth, children) it is much easier to demand that everyone fall in line with your vision and think everyone is unified. Be sure you know the difference between unity and uniformity. Be sure you are humble enough to be corrected and challenged. Be sure you are always critically looking at what you are doing in the church and for Whom you are doing it.
Being a pastor is not like other careers (I agree with John Piper, Brothers, we are not Professionals!). We must be humble. We must be critical of our motives; after all, the heart is deceitful above all things, who can understand it? Humility cannot be taught. More often than not, it is learned. I pray that we all as seminarians learn this lesson before we move into a leadership role in a local church and become an open doorway by which Satan enters the church.