In our church we are in the very beginning of a major building program. I would love to say that everyone is on board and we have complete agreement. Sadly, that is not the case. There are many who have some serious reservations concerning the plans and process of this program. In our church we have a polity which allows for these folks voice to be heard. Although they are in the minority, they still are valued and their council sought. This is the idea of principled dissent and it is a very precious commodity in Baptist life. Without it the conservative resurgence would never have got off the ground. It is my opinion that it is the lack of this precious right that has allowed many of the mainline denominations to have been lost to liberalism and universalism. The man in the pew in these great mainline denoms does not concur with his leadership but he has no voice. Because Baptist folk had a voice we were able to turn the tide in our Southern Baptist Zion. One of the most frustrating things however about principled dissent is that often times the dissenter feels the need to replace Christian maturity with carnal militancy. I have seen this in my own ministry with folks I serve and sadly, in my own life from time to time. Many the time I have had to visit with precious people concerning their spirit and their attitude in their attempt to speak what they feel is a prophetic voice . I have observed many good brothers and sisters drift very slowly from a mantle of principled dissent to what seems to be a purposeful defamation, where we must contend with a man instead of simply Warring against the spirit which we feel drives him. When this happens we often will find ourselves in danger of loosing not only the battle but also coming dangerously close to surrendering the war! However, whena man or women stands on principled dissent from the mantle of Christian maturity there will be some obvious traits:
1) Their dissent will be seasoned with love.
This is seen clearly in the principled dissent of IMB trustee Wade Burleson. His blog is absolutely seasoned with his love for the Lord, his fellow trustees and the SBC! I may have some disagreement with Bro. Wade over some of the issues which he is concerned about, and perhaps even the forum in which he shared them (On this I have no clear position as of yet) however I have no quarrel with the tone and the maturity which is seen in his posts.
2) Their dissent will seek the glory of God and have His fame as their highest concern
Our concern must always be with the glory of God. No where in scripture are we given liberty to even be remotely concerned with our own opinions and agendas, especially when there is no biblical basis for said opinions or agendas. We must be committed simply and solely to the business of building the kingdom and seeking out and implementing Gods agenda in all that we do. Some of my concerns with some in the Baptist blogosphere is that there seems to be a agenda of personal retribution rather than the pursuit of the pleasures of God.
3) Their dissent will be void of personal attacks and fleshly reactions.
There is no room in the realm of Christlike Christian maturity for name calling, innuendo and character defamation. Principled dissent stands on the authority of Gods word, not pragmatism based upon slippery ideology, yet piety based upon firm theology. It is void of a party spirit and resonates with a 1 Corinthians 13 kind of ethic.
However, because we are all fallen creatures, there is the tendency in the midst of principled dissent to slip downward into the arena of purposeful defamation. This is when we replace love with agenda seeking. When we use pejorative terms in order to elevate our position based upon the perception of wrong doing by another. We overly generalize and lump all kinds of folks in the same mold. The result is a Carnal Militancy rather than Christian Maturity.
The traits of Carnal Militancy are, yet not limited to:
1) Name calling instead of concentrating on the issues
2) presupposing motive in place of Christlike dialogue
3) A party mentality which seeks the good of the group instead of the fame of Jesus and the glory of our God
4) A concentration on personality instead of the opinion or issue of the personality
God help us all as we approach the Southern Baptist Convention to seek out the heart of our Father and when we must dissent on an issue, we do so with maturity and with the single goal of sharing His love not only with a lost and dying world, but also with the family that God has placed us in called Southern Baptists.
I Love You All