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01 Feb '12

Civil and uncivil discourse in the church

Posted by T.J. Addington in church health, conflict, culture, organizational culture
Many do not realize how much of our national culture we bring into our churches that is problematic. Take for instance, the divisions brought on by elections in the US. Our nation is sharply divided and divisive in how it deals with those divisions. And, we have developed a polarized, black and white mentality where one side is "right" and the other side is "wrong." In addition, the tone of the discourse is sharp and divisive by its very nature. One tires of people shouting at one another on news programs.


How often in the church we bring the same black and white mentality coupled with polarizing attitudes, demonizing of those we don't agree with and divisions within the congregation. In fact, conflict seems to go up in congregations during election seasons which is not a surprise given the divisive spirit in the nation at large.


However, if ever there should be a place where discourse is civil, reasonable and respectful it ought to be in the church where in God's Spirit we can disagree with one another in an agreeable way and never demonize others simply because we don't see eye to eye. Think of the Biblical teaching on being gentle and kind to one another, patient with one another, long suffering and self controlled. Quite different than the polarized attitudes in our culture at large. 


Whenever the tone in the church becomes sharp and polarizing we need to be aware that it is secular culture behavior that is taking place rather than Jesus culture behavior. Whatever our differences, and whatever our positions, if ever there were a place where civil and respectful discourse should take place it should be in the church. This is why conflict in the church that results on division and divisiveness in unhealthy ways never reflects the character of Jesus but our society at large. Where it does take place, the biblical injunction is to forgive and seek to live at peace.


In addition, when it comes to politics, Jesus culture transcends our political differences and parties. Whenever I hear church leaders pushing a political agenda, party or candidate I know that for them Jesus does not yet transcend secular politics. There are Christ followers in all walks of life and political persuasion. At the work water cooler we debate politics. In the church we lift Jesus high. He is the hope of the world, not a political party. And for believers, being in the family of God transcends being in whatever political party we adhere to.