Reforming church, culture and our city

Reforming church, culture and our city

What Do You Do When You Disagree With Your Church Leaders?

with 5 comments

Every so often I get asked by people about what they should do if they disagree with their church’s leadership (or deacons or elders whatever tradition you come out from). One very useful way to approach this is to take an open hand/closed hand approach.

You have to work out what is an open hand issue and a closed hand issue for yourself. Open hand issues are those things which are negotiable and are a matter of style, preference and wisdom. Closed hand issues are those things which are not negotiable and are issues of biblical authority. That being said, whether an issue falls into one of these categories also depends on a church’s leadership and beliefs (even tradition in some churches) … and also an individual believers beliefs. In our church, there are several things which we consider closed hand issues which you’ll see below – which under God we believe is Biblically faithful. Whether those who church with us accept that is another matter – but as I have been saying these days in our baptism/confirmation/membership class – this is where our English senior leadership sits Biblically on these issues, so if people want to church with us, serve with us, then they have to at the very least be comfortable with our leaderships position on these closed hand issues, which we believe are faithful Biblically (if you can’t agree with it, then you’re better of churching in another place where you’re more comfortable).


That being said, in our church we allow for differences in how we give expression to what we believe to be the Biblical teaching on issues such as women in leadership e.g. we affirm male headship and we believe that Jesus’ senior leaders/elders should be men, but that doesn’t mean that women cannot publicly teach or lead, because even as they do that, they are doing this under the visible headship of those of us in senior leadership consistent with 1 Cor.11.

We are a church governed by the Word, united/centered on Jesus & his atoning work, led by Jesus’’ senior leaders who are men, equipping all God’s people for His ministry and mission. Some matters for me are closed hand issues and others are open hand issues in leading our church. But as believers we also need to work out personally under God as we study the Scriptures what are closed/open hand issues for ourselves.

So in answering the question, I think whether a person stays and continues in ministry with a church would depend on whether having studied the Scriptures themselves and sought counsel on an issue, they can agree with their church’s position on the issue or issues in question. If you are wondering whether you should leave your church, you have to work out whether you consider it a closed hand or an open hand issue. My take is that if it’s a closed hand issue for you, then it’s highly unlikely you should stay as it will lead to you working against your conscience Biblically, and it will also eventually lead to a disrespect for your church’s leadership. Instead of working with them, you’ll end up working against them.

Luther at the Diet of Worms

Luther at the Diet of Worms

As Luther would say when confronted and challenged – “Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason — I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other — my conscience is captive to the word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. I can do nothing else. God help me.” Ultimately our supreme standard and authority is the Word of God – and I would ask nothing more of believers than their obedience to it, which means that after carefully study of the issues in question they have to decide whether it will be a closed hand or open hand issue for them, and act accordingly. Submission to a church’s leadership does not mean by passing the authority of the Scriptures because ultimately a church’s leadership is to be submitted to as long as they are faithful to the Scriptures.

It’s always important to remember that our unity must be around God’’s revealed truth: closed hand vs. open hand; some issues are a matter of conscience and preference, so we need to be discerning and generous in our relationships; we need to always let the Scriptures speak and inform our decision making when it comes to issues at church and how we do church.


5 Responses

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  1. hey euge

    hows things? stumbled across your blog from a facebook link. Interesting read! I agree whole heartedly on approaching church issues with a closed hand/open hand analysis. ultimately scripture is the ultimate authority that is not negotiable.

    interesting point on females teaching/leading in church…an issue that is often in debate in the church. could you expand on this a bit more? maybe drop me an email or fb message 🙂



    July 24, 2008 at 1:33 pm

  2. Absolutely right Iggy – scripture is our final authority on all matters of faith and life. In terms of females teaching/leading – one of the problems has been that people tend to take 1 Tim 1 in isolation from other passages in the NT. We need to take 1 Tim 1 and 1 Cor 11 together where you discover that the issue is headship. I have always affirmed that the Bible’s teaching on leadership in the home and in the church is that leadership is the role of men, consistent with the NT teaching on male headship. What evangelicals will disagree on has been on how this is applied i.e. I have evangelical friends who affirm male headship but will apply the principle differently where in some churches women cannot preach to mixed groups, while in other churches they can. I think that the issue is not on whether women can or can’t preach to mix groups, but whether it is clearly evident that they are under the headship of a man.


    July 24, 2008 at 2:12 pm

  3. And here I was thinking that the open and closed handed approach was a form of laying on of hands. The closed being a fist and the open being the slap.

    Then again that’s my way of dealing with non-negotiables and wisdom issues!

    Anthony Lui

    July 24, 2008 at 3:50 pm

  4. Yes – my preference being Asian and having kunfu panda heritage was the closed fist and open palm approach in dealing with church matters 🙂 LOL


    July 24, 2008 at 4:11 pm

  5. Hey Euge,

    didn’ t know you were blogging! Have linked to you.

    David Ould

    July 25, 2008 at 2:26 am

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