Why Do We Shy Away From Dissenting Voices? - Salvation Army Canada

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    Why Do We Shy Away From Dissenting Voices?

    By welcoming diverse opinions, we can make our churches, and lives, better. November 20, 2020 by Darryn Oldford
    Filed Under:
    Opinion & Critical Thought
    I've noticed a familiar pattern when it comes to advertising. A company, whether a large multinational firm or a small store, puts out a blatantly problematic ad—racist, sexist or just completely tone-deaf to real-world issues—and is shocked when people have a problem with it. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt and believe that, in most cases, the shock is genuine and not itself a marketing stunt. I think workplace culture is to blame for most of these missteps in two key ways.

    While advertising is a multi-billion-dollar industry, it has real people at the centre, like all businesses. The first problem is having the same kinds of people, with similar beliefs, making decisions without outside input. The second is having a top-down approach to decision-making that makes it impossible to collaborate or point out problems, since “the boss has the final say.”

    While having a team with diverse backgrounds who are empowered to voice their ideas is important for television advertisements, it is even more essential for churches. I have a rather controversial opinion regarding church leadership, so prepare yourself.

    In my view, whether it’s a local church, a national denomination or an international organization, there should be at least one non-Christian from the community on the board to offer their opinion and vote on issues. This person could be an atheist or someone from another faith.
    Having someone at the table who sees the world from a different perspective is a useful tool.
    Here’s my reasoning. If church leadership is solely comprised of Christians, who share the same beliefs and language, it can create an echo chamber where everyone agrees on how things should run, and we arrive at the same conclusions. This is especially true when everyone making the decisions are ordained members of the clergy. While not all Christians are the same, and we can have passionate differences, those who attend church regularly enough to be invited into decision-making can easily fall into similar categories.

    During my time as a teacher, one thing that became clear is that if you don’t have the ability to explain a concept to someone who knows nothing about the subject, then you don’t fully grasp it yourself. Having someone at the table who sees the world from a different perspective is a useful tool to make sure you’re making the right decisions for the right reasons.

    While I believe that having a variety of opinions is important to make the right decision, I loathe the idea of a devil’s advocate. The devil has no need for an advocate. There are people in this world who take joy in being obstinate; if the sky is blue, they will argue it is purple with beige polka dots. In a meeting, this type of person is good for nothing more than raising everyone’s blood pressure.

    It’s important, then, to have people in leadership who have differing opinions, but share the goal of building something great, rather than tearing everything down. While expertise can and should be elevated in these conversations—for example, the person running the food bank should have the most say about food bank-related issues—it’s up to everyone else to listen and weigh in to expose blind spots and strengthen ministry.

    One of my favourite passages of Scripture compares the church to the human body, and the importance of respecting each and every one of us as part of the church body: “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).

    True Christian leadership lifts up the voices of those on the margins of making decisions, recognizing that everyone has something to contribute. People who are naturally quiet and reserved may still have something important to say that the church needs to hear. It’s only by welcoming voices that are often overlooked that we can make our churches, and lives, better.

    Darryn Oldford is a senior soldier in Toronto.

    Photo: SIphotography/iStock via Getty Images Plus

    Comment

    On Tuesday, November 24, 2020, Owen Budden said:

    Having a non-Christian voice at a table for discussion for impact on a community is a great idea. Too many Christians have little or no relationship with non- believers or those from other faith backgrounds. How can we spread the love of Christ by refusing to enter into meaningful relationships with others. My experience is that too many Church members have only church member relationships. I am so glad Jesus reached outside the religious elite, and built relationships with the undesirables of his day. Let's keep looking to Jesus for openness to all our cultural diversity. Why not have trans-gendered, gay, social diverse voices in the mix as well. Jesus invites all to his table; but we will likely leave the table as changed individuals simply because we have been exposed to a true and genuine Christian witness

     

    On Tuesday, November 24, 2020, Owen said:

    Nice to have differing views and voices speak into advertising. Faith balanced with an atheistic view and sensitivity to the intended audience will lead to a more favorable communication. The most important component of this idea is establishing relationships with the unbeliever or God ignore(er). Too few Christians have atheistic or other faith based friendships. Good food for thought.

     

    On Monday, November 23, 2020, Concerned said:

    Let me see.....an atheist, or perhaps a Sikh on the Corps Mission Board/Census Board/ Council/whatever. Now THAT is a brilliant solution to the Army's problems today, not the least of which is an ever more precipitous decline in meeting attendance, corps activities, the number and quality of officers etc.

     

    On Monday, November 23, 2020, Juan said:

    This an intriguing idea. It would be breaking new ground from a corps ministries perspective, but it is not an entirely foreign concept to the SA. Every SA social mission ministry unit has a community advisory council. The community council is a group of volunteers who support a designated service by providing to the Executive Director administrative advice relating to program, business and policy matters. A community council assists the management in ensuring that the service is effectively and efficiently administered. These councils are often made up of people from all walks of life. Most of the community councils that I have had reflected the demographics of the neighbourhood in which I worked and lived. So therefore, it should come as no surprise to know that they weren’t all Christians. And yet they proved to be a valuable source of advice and connectivity to the community.

    So, if it could work for our social mission centres, why could it not work for our corps? Unless we are prepared to draw a line of distinction between corps and social centres that many of us (including myself) have been loathed to do. Our social centres have chaplains, worship services and Christian programming. Our corps centres often operate significant community programs in addition to their congregational work. Is there really that big of a difference that we can’t at least be open to the idea before we shut it down? As Darryn points out, it could be a real boon to have an external viewpoint regarding the community and individuals we are trying to reach.

    The neat thing about our organization too is that we are still an organization with a quasi-military structure. It’s not as if the person will have voting rights. No matter what anyone on a corps council, mission board, community council, advisory board or management team suggests, there is a person who can ultimately say, “No this won’t work for us.” In that way, our mission and integrity can be protected. I wouldn’t be quick to discount this idea.

     

    On Sunday, November 22, 2020, Margaret Rose Maxwell said:

    I am a Christian who loves the LORD with all my Heart and Soul and it is not an easy road to follow because we are human and are far from being perfect by any means. I make all kinds of mistakes and I must always listen to the Holy Spirit that is with me 24/7 always trying to keep me on the right track. Thank goodness I listen to the Holy Spirit most of the time, but on occasions, things happen too fast and I have sinned and know in my heart to make it right and repent to God and ask for HIS forgiveness. I agree with some of the comments that are written before me but again I do not know the answers. I agree that I would not want to be in a church where a nonbeliever is making decisions about the direction our church is going to take. However, if my church has a nonbeliever going to the church I am delighted and applaud the people in that church because that is what I hope all churches have is an open door that anyone may enter and we greet them with open arms and with the love GOD has given to each of us no matter who they are and we take that person in and let them know how AMAZING OUR GOD is. I believe most problems in churches is the politics of most organizations sometimes are too strict. I myself find in some places they hamper the movement of the Holy Spirit in Services. I believe in (at this moment I am asking GOD to help me say what I want to say but to explain it right and showing no disrespect to anyone but try to let HIS SPIRIT FLOW FREE SO EVERYONE CAN BE ALLOWED TO WORSHIP GOD FREELY. I DO NOT MEAN A FREE FOR ALL SERVICE BUT THERE IS A TIME AND A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING. WE NEED TEACHING OF GOD'S WORD, WORSHIP IS SOMETHING I LOVE TO DO EVERY DAY, PRAYER FOR YOUR CHURCH AND PASTOR OR PASTORS, TAKE TIME OUT OF YOUR DAY TO PRAY AND ALWAYS GIVING THANKS TO GOD FOR EVERYTHING ALWAYS. Sometimes I think we make things to complicated. Pray for the people in your church leaders that they will lead and direct the church to do what is right in GOD's eyes and not our own eyes. I just pray that the leaders of all churches will ask for GOD'S help in leading their church. I would like to thank you for listening and I hope I did not offend anyone. Praise GOD

     

    On Sunday, November 22, 2020, Jerry Hughes said:

    2 Corinthians 14-18 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers! Although most believe this refers to a marriage relationship don't forget we are the bride of Christ. I find it hard to believe this is even a discussion in the Army.

     

    On Saturday, November 21, 2020, Royal Senter said:

    While I agree that it is important to listen to a variety of voices, even, if not especially, to dissenting voices, spiritual leadership can only be provided by "spiritual" people By that I mean people walking in and filled with the Holy Spirit. Leadership requires followers and no one can lead another person in a direction they are not heading themselves. Therefore, having an atheist or person of another faith on a church leadership team (church board, corps council, whatever you may call it) is to have a person who is not on God's narrow road. Such a person cannot direct anyone or anything to God because they do not know God or His ways and will. Their goals and direction will always be worldly at best. By placing such a person into a position of leadership, we actually validate and legitimize their unbelief. Such people cannot be anything but false teachers and tolerance of such things in church leadership was one of the recurring condemnations in Christ's message to the seven churches in Revelation.

    Let everyone come to our corps (church); let them speak; let them help. Only let the spiritually qualified lead.

     

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