Why I Don’t Expect Everyone in My Church to Agree with Everything I Say
A pastor spends hours researching a sermon, then someone in the church challenges one of the main points. A pastor prays for months about a new vision, then someone in the church disagrees with the proposed direction. A pastor studies in seminary for years, then a person in the church takes issue with a doctrinal stance. Most pastors know these frustrations. While pastors should care deeply about preaching, doctrine, and vision, it’s unreasonable to expect everyone to agree with everything you say.
If you’re doing your job well as a pastor, taking firm stances and having a clear vision, you will likely have dissent. This dissent is not an omen of malevolence, but rather a sign of trust in most cases. When you propose a bold vision or make a firm doctrinal stance, silence from your congregation is much scarier than a few people expressing dissenting views. When someone wants to discuss a disagreement, it’s an indication that the person trusts you to some extent. Rare is the person who uses dissent to be mean. Sure, that person exists, but most people won’t fault you for politely ignoring a curmudgeon.
What should you do with dissenting views? In short, listen. You might learn you’re mistaken or recognize you might need to pivot slightly. But why should you expect dissent? Why would I not expect everyone in my church to agree with me?
You don’t even agree with yourself. The future you will disagree with the present you. When I review what I preached ten years ago, I find I would change a lot of what I said. When I think about how I led ten years ago, if I could, I would tell my twenty-six-year-old self to change approaches. How can I get angry about dissenting views now when I don’t even agree with myself in the past?
You’re not perfect. We pastors preach about imperfect people all the time. Imperfection applies to our shepherding as well. You should expect dissent because you’ll be wrong, more often than you like.
Everyone needs to grow. When pastors disallow dissent, no one grows. The pastor stops growing because of pride, and the church never gets the chance to grow because their dissent was never heard.
Unheard dissent is dangerous. It’s a breeding ground for bitterness, especially in the church.
You need accountability. Dissent is a gentle reminder to take yourself off the pedestal. It’s hard to admit when you’re wrong. It’s tough to realize you’re wrong if you consistently squelch all dissent. Pushing back on dissent is a vicious cycle, one in which you become more ingrained in the thought that you can’t possibly be wrong.
Followers are more important than leaders. The congregation is more important than the pastor. If you believe in servant leadership, you must take the position that the people you lead are more important than you. When you expect everyone to agree with everything you say, you’re making yourself the highest priority rather than Christ and the people you shepherd.
There are non-negotiables in doctrine and some leadership decisions. You should not welcome dissent over the fundamentals of the faith or the church’s core mission. The bulk of dissent in the church, however, does not often come over non-negotiable issues. Expect dissent, listen, and learn. You’ll lead better because of it.
Posted on May 11, 2022
As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
More from Sam
An adage, “without friction, a wheel will not turn.”
For me, I freely admit that I have bias and may not see things the way others do. When people push back I force myself to revisit my assumptions and information. Also, in their dissent, as long as there is a pathway for communication, both parties can learn something. I have found that there is more trouble when people aren’t pushing a little or better – engaging in conversation – because whatever is troubling them isn’t being addressed.
Case in point: I had a person who left the church in my 4th (or 5th) year. When queried, he replied “I haven’t been getting anything out of your sermons.” Ironically, that was the very first time he had said anything about my preaching – when he was out the door. Countered by the person who had issues with delivery (not content) and we discussed both aspects of preaching and we both grew because of it.
Les – The adage is true! Thanks for sharing a personal anecdote. Those kinds of comments are tough to hear. But it’s good when you can grow with others around you.
Great read! Thank you for sharing!
Good article. One thing that could also be included , is that dissent can also be an attack from the enemy on the pastor’s direction from God and moving the church forward.