Had a very engaging conversation with a new friend on beliefs. He’s exploring the possibility of joining the start of Lakepoint Church, but first wanted to know where I stood on a particularly debated topic of theology.
He asked me what I believed. I told him. He agreed. I asked him to articulate his version, and I agreed with him as well.
Some how or another, despite believing the same thing, we found ourselves on pretty different pages, leaving me scratching my head.
I found it’s possible for two people to believe the same thing, but be on entirely different pages on what to do about it.
Appropriate emphasis is the stickiest part of theology. Knowing how much emphasis to place on any particular belief is as important as the belief itself.
Let’s place emphasis into four categories.
This is the stuff that’s so important that life and death is at stake. If you can’t covert someone to this, you carry the sense that all is lost.
These are the critical growth issues. It’s not the first thing you win people to, but a major gap in maturity is at stake if it’s not upheld.
Some beliefs are important, helpful, and we truly feel that other people will be better off agreeing. However, we gracefully acknowledge that the debate is still open or there might be something to the other side.
There are some matters in which come down to saying, “I Don’t Know, I Don’t Care, and it Doesn’t Matter.” Maybe you even have a side on the issue, but you don’t think anything is riding on whether or not others agree.
I’d argue that the right faith is not just about believing the right thing, but placing the right emphasis on that belief. How important is it for everyone else to see it your way?
- Forgiveness for our wrongs by faith alone in Jesus – that deserves Proselytizing Emphasis. All the other topics fail to matter if someone can’t come to terms with that.
- Should we gather for worship on Saturday or Sunday? Some circles proselytize on the issue as if we are trying to win people first and foremost to a day of rest. I think one of the bottom two emphases would be more appropriate. I think I know what the answer is, but I’d still give it a DK-DC-DM.
- Should we take a weekly day of rest? I think it’s a Discipleship Emphasis, most won’t treat it better than Preferential.
- Women in leadership is an interesting one. Some have an agenda on one side or another and firmly make it a Discipleship Emphasis. My beliefs on the matter are pretty concrete, but I’d defer to a Preferential Emphasis for it. I think people would be better off agreeing with me, but there’s no doubt in my mind if they can live a mature Christian life even if they’re convinced of the opposite.
Here’s what is at stake: division.
Division was possibly the single greatest concern in the Epistle (Letter) Books in the Bible. These authors taught the right answers, but they also taught that the right answers had to be lived out the right way – in church unity.
Doctrines that merit Proselytizing Emphasis are worth dividing over.
Dividing over Discipleship Emphasis? Maybe. But hopefully not.
Preferential and DK-DC-DM Emphasis? Definitely not.
We’ve ended up with several hundred denominations, and swap churches regularly, not so much because we believe differently, but because we’ve chosen to emphasize inappropriately. Not every issue is worth dividing over.