Christian leaders are often passionate about what they believe. But they do not always share their personal convictions in ways that are healthy or productive.
There is real danger when Christian leaders use their personal convictions as a mandate for how others should live. Doing this tends to lead towards legalism (and away from discernment), as I discussed in this post. But what should we be doing instead?
In this episode, I’m diving into a topic that is relevant to what is happening in our world right now. You can’t go on social media or the news lately without seeing people, including Christian leaders, making blanket statements about what you should or should not be doing.
I’m concerned with the ways these recommendations are being communicated. In many cases, they are creating a set of rules that you must follow in order to be seen as a ‘real Christian’, and this is legalism. But how can we share our convictions and beliefs without promoting legalism?
Today I’m sharing from a blog post that I wrote previously with 5 principles for sharing our convictions as leaders. Below you can see the full content of the blog post.
If we feel strongly about a particular issue, or we’ve experienced something life-changing that impacted our perspective, how can we share about this with others without promoting legalism?
Below I’m sharing some principles that I hope will be helpful for you in communicating about your personal convictions and preferences.
5 Principles for sharing your personal convictions as a Christian leader
1. Determine whether the practice you are sharing about is mandated by Scripture.
Or, is it simply a personal conviction you’ve come to based on your reading of God’s word and other experiences? If you are clear on where this falls, it will help you to accurately represent your viewpoint to others.
If it is a clear Biblical mandate, then it makes sense to teach or share it as such. But if it’s a personal conviction, then check out the following tips.
2. Always point people to dig into Scripture for themselves.
As leaders, we should not want our followers to simply take everything we say at face value. Rather, we should be encouraging them to dig into God’s word on their own.
This is what the Bereans did and they were commended for it. Therefore, even if the practice we are sharing is supported Biblically, we should encourage people to read and study for themselves. We can provide resources and tools that might assist them in doing so.
Most of all, we should be teaching others to be in God’s word on a regular basis so that they can develop a deeper relationship with God and better understand His character. Doing so will help them to develop the skill of discernment, as I talked with Tabitha Bigbee about on this podcast episode.
3. Acknowledge that you might be wrong.
Okay, this is a biggie, and not a popular one for me (because, let’s face it, I love to be right 👇🏼).
But let’s take a real life example. Popular Christian female blogger Phylicia Masonheimer wrote a blog post several years ago about women wearing yoga pants. It was her take on the issue, and she took a strong stance about it at the time. More recently, however, she wrote a Facebook post acknowledging that she had been wrong —that she had been steeped in legalism around this issue. She recognized where she had gone wrong and took responsibility for it publicly.
We can use this as a reminder to stay humble when it comes to things like personal convictions.
Are we willing to hold our stance with open hands, ready to adjust if God shows us the error in our ways?
Please know I’m not saying that we should be wishy-washy in our faith or compromise on truth. But I am calling for us to be acutely aware of our humanity and our propensity to see things based on our current life experiences and worldview. And to recognize that sometimes, we could be wrong.
As an another example, here’s a podcast episode where Phylicia and her podcast co-host Lisa share things that they had changed their minds about over the years.
4. Share your story, but don’t do it with a spirit of fear or criticism.
If it is a personal conviction, instead of telling others they should not do _________, simply share the reasons why YOU are choosing not to do _________.
In the case of choosing not to practice yoga, for example, you could share the reasons why you came to this conclusion for yourself. You can share the points that concern you about the practice. And you could provide questions for someone to ask in order to assess this for themselves.
But please, fellow leaders, stop using your personal convictions about peripheral or secondary (i.e. non-essential) issues to dictate how others should live. You do not have to be alarmist or extremist to be heard.
Please, fellow leaders, stop using your personal convictions about peripheral or secondary (i.e. non-essential) issues to dictate how others should live.
I’ve been seeing a lot of posts and comments lately that have a tone of fear and “I’m concerned for you” when discussing issues of disagreement. I seek to be discerning and it come across as condescending when someone implies that I just haven’t “seen the light” about a particular issue–especially when the issue is not a clear cut Biblical mandate.
Avoid using words and phrases like “you should be really careful if you do abc” or “a Christian leader should never promote xyz” if you want to be understood.
From the book Mama Bear Apologetics:
“When you try to warn people by adopting an alarmist tone, you will be heard, but you won’t necessarily be understood and persuasive. There’s a big difference between being understood and persuasive.”
So if you simply want to be heard, go ahead and yell at everyone about why they shouldn’t do xyz. But if you want to be understood, take time to share the reasons why you’ve come to your conclusions. And do so with a whole lot of grace and love.
5. Keep in mind this principle: unity in the essentials, diversity in the non-essentials.
As Christians, there are certain things that are essential to our faith as it pertains to salvation and the Christian life. These are solidly based on Biblical truths and have been held by Christians for centuries. This is what some might call historic or Orthodox Christianity.
For me, I also hold to these truths and believe that they are essential to calling oneself a Christian. There are absolute truths we can find clearly in Scripture, and these should not be compromised.
But on a whole lot of other issues, there is a wide array of diverse viewpoints within Christianity.
One of those issues, for example, is women in church leadership. In our podcast episode with Kadi Cole discussing this issue, she reminded us of the importance of unity as a body of believers. Unfortunately in recent months, we have seen more and more people disagreeing about this issue in a divisive way rather than seeking to focus on our main mission as Christians.
Unity within the body of Christ should trump our need to convince others to agree with us on secondary or non-essential issues.
When it comes to personal viewpoints on these non-essential issues, we should recognize that we may disagree, but we are still brothers and sisters in Christ.
Note: non-essential does not mean unimportant, but rather that the issue is not something we need to agree upon in regards to salvation.
How we share our convictions matters
As Christian leaders, it matters how we share our personal convictions. Whether we like it or not, others are looking to us for wisdom, for guidance, for direction. And if we misuse our role and impose our personal convictions on others as mandates, then we may be leading people away from the life God designed for them.
We could be leading them back into bondage instead of towards a life of freedom.
Instead of imposing our personal convictions on others, what if instead, we embraced the freedom that God has given us?
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 5:1
What if we shared our convictions with humility, recognizing that other brothers and sisters in Christ might hold a different view?
And what if we keep in mind that perhaps, at some point, our views on some issues might change?
Most importantly of all, let’s remember to point our followers to Scripture. Let’s encourage them to dig into God’s word and listen to his Holy Spirit so that they are able to develop discernment and wisdom.
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Thank you Esther. This is a very helpful article and I’ll be passing it around to my church leadership.
I would have liked to see some mention about the cultural differences that exists in a multi-racial and multi-generational church. imho, most talk about the correct behaviour/dressing stems from cultural differences rather than from a theological grounding.
Thanks Andrew and I appreciate you sharing the post. That’s a good point about the cultural differences – thanks for mentioning it.