Michael Brown on The Right Way to Disagree With Spiritual Elders


I write these words as an elder in the body, as a father in the faith, and as one who despises abusive and heavy-handed leadership. So before I talk about how to disagree with a spiritual elder, allow me to speak plainly about the role of church leaders.

Godly leaders lead by serving. By example. By calling and anointing.

They do not threaten. Or intimidate. Or manipulate. They are shepherds, not tyrants; examples to the flock, not dictatorial bosses.

That’s why I have written several chapters addressing abusive leadership, along with whole books calling for change in our “religious system.”

Leaders must be accountable. Leaders are not above the law—God’s law or the laws of the land. And leaders who persist in unrepentant sin are to be rebuked publicly by other leaders (see 1 Timothy 5:20; the verb speaks of ongoing, persistent sinful behavior, meaning a leader who refuses to repent even after numerous warnings).

Of course, there are times when leaders must set things in order. Must rebuke. Must correct. Must admonish. Must warn. Must practice discipline. To fail to do this is to fail to be responsible shepherds.

Just read 1-2 Timothy and Titus for Paul’s leadership directives. He makes clear that this is all part of a leader’s job description.

But whatever we do as fathers and leaders, we do in love. And we do it using God’s authority and according to His proper order, not with personal threats and not in some random, unaccountable way online.

As for leaders whose actions and words damage the sheep—the Lord’s sheep!—God’s rebuke is very strong: “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them” (Ezek. 34:8-10).

It is a fearful thing to be appointed by God to be an under-shepherd of His flock. He will hold us accountable for every one of His sheep that we impact. And it is even more fearful when we use the Bible (quoting verses like Psalm 105:15, where God says, “Don’t touch my anointed”) as a cloak for our sinful behavior. May it never be!

God forbid we scare our congregants into thinking that divine judgment will fall on them if they dare to differ with us. God forbid we abuse the sacred authority God has given us and use it to fleece or silence the flock.

At the same time, there is a right way and a wrong way to disagree with those whom God has entrusted with spiritual oversight. That is why Hebrews says, “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you” (Heb. 13:17).

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SOURCE: Charisma News