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November 07, 2007


Alex Marshall

Very insightful, I really appreciate this post (since I am studying to become a pastor myself). I can definitely sympathize with the individual behind it, sometimes advice from people we respect makes us very unwilling to act in a way we think "won't please them" even if we are convinced another course might be better. I am definitely nervous about being on the opposite side of that where individuals are evaluating my advice... so your thoughts here have definitely helped. Also gives me more motivation to make my understanding of scripture more thorough!!


The distinction you're making between matters of clear sin, and matters of conscience is critical for the health of Christ's body. All too often, I see Christians taking personal convictions (or methodologies) in gray areas (as described in Romans 14)and imposing those as black-and-white axioms for all those around them to emulate. The mature have their senses trained to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:14), but they also know how to be part of a grace-based community that allows others freedom to be "in process" with Christ, and that respects each believer's ability to discern God's truth and obey His leading.


What's the balance between being too concerned with the opinion of a spiritual shepherd, and not concerned enough?

For example, Israel seems often to have given too little credence to Jeremiah and other prophets, even sometimes Moses.

Perhaps somewhere in the middle of the extremes, David seems to have been wary of confrontation with Saul, even though Saul was a king out of favor with God.

Contrastingly, the Corinthians divided themselves according to the "Apollos," "Paul," or "Christ" teams.

So, what's the bright line between unhealthy disregard and a cult of personality?

Alex Marshall

I think at least two distinctions might be sin issues and the "health" or benefit of the whole unit.

For instance, when Israel ignored its leaders, it was pursuing sin and unwilling to turn aside, which was clearly wrong. But when the church divided based on various "cults of personalities," we see another criteria, which was that the disunity was definitely not to the church's benefit, so it was criticized.

Not sure if that's a full answer...

Randy Wellman

It's always tough to make what are good decisions versus what are best decisions. I try to seek God's direction first directly, and then, if necessary, seek out wise counsel from others like yourself to add more clarity. With respect to crossing the "invisible line,” I don't find that a problem, but when trying to factor in God's sovereignty into the decision, well, that's a differnt story...care to comment on when "free will" counts and when/if it doesn't?


I'm actually close to the opposite, Randy. I check with Godly counsel in conjunction with asking for God's direction. Generally, I've found that they work in tandem to point me to the next step. And Jim, you've been one person whose opinion I trust the most. Yes, I get that you're not leading, but you always focus my attention on what matters. Sometimes it's a place that I wasn't looking, but it always clears things up for me, so I can ask for God's guidance in a narrowed focus.

Alex Marshall

Please don't take this the wrong way, but I almost burst out laughing when I read the last line of your comment, Randy. Care to comment on "free will"- that's gotta be the most fiercely debated topic in theology!! I would love to hear Jim's thoughts, though. But I have a sneaking suspicion that topic will require more than a casual comment...

Randy wellman

Don't worry Alex. I'm not taking it the wrong way....I'm quite famliar with you correspondence.


So Jim - are you saying that you crossed "the invisible line" in the case you described in the post?

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