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Involving Ourselves in Every Controversy?


Part of the pernicious underbelly of the internet is that many allow themselves to be drawn into controversies about which they have no need to involve themselves.

For many years, I too wanted juicy details about whatever controversy was swirling around in evangelical and Reformed circles. To my shame, I have either initiated or been on the receiving end of innumerable conversations that began with the statement, “Did you hear what just happened to so and so…?” So much of this belongs to the realm of gossip rather than to the sphere of sanctified concern or justified probing. As Jerry Bridges has rightly noted, “Behind all of our gossip, slander, critical speech, insults, and sarcasm is our sinful heart. The tongue is only the instrument that reveals what’s in our hearts.”

So what are we to do if we are to live informed lives without allowing ourselves to be drawn into foolish controversies in which we have no responsibility from God to involve ourselves?

Here are a few helps:

1. Remember the Sphere of Your Calling From God.

When the Lord drew me to himself in saving grace, He implanted in me a burning desire to preach the gospel. I believe that my conversion and my call to ministry occurred simultaneously. That being said, I was not called to pastor the universe. I was called by God to pastor specific local churches at specific times in my ministry.

This means that my priority must be for the care of the needs of the people whom God has entrusted to me in the local church I serve. Just as Augustine referred to spheres of moral proximity, when answering the questions about caring for the welfare of those in need, so there is a moral proximity for pastors and people to care first and foremost for the spiritual needs of the people in the same body.

Of course, this does not mean that the sphere of responsibility stops at the local church. I happen to be a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America. This means that it is my responsibility to concern myself with the spiritual condition of the churches in our denomination. However, within the PCA, we have regional Presbyteries that take precedent to the national court.

If I neglect my responsibility to serve on committees and to care to the best of my ability for the spiritual health and wellbeing of the churches and ministers in our Presbytery because I want to give the better part of my time and energy to denominational controversies, then I am failing to fulfill the role to which God has called me. After giving ourselves to the care of the local church, we are to give ourselves first and foremost to the wider regional expression of our denominational affiliations.

This is not to say that ministers are not called to care for the wider church. It is right and good for ministers in the PCA to serve on denominational committees and agencies. It is important for pastors to labor for the peace and purity of the denomination at large.

However, even within this sphere, great caution is needed. Many thrive on controversy. They make it an all-consuming goal to speak to every issue, to critique every aberration, and to fight incessantly. Though it is impossible to judge motives, one must give serious consideration to what is fueling such involvement. It is far too easy to involve yourself in denominational controversies out of a quest for influence, power, or fear rather than out of a desire to see the triune God glorified, Christ exalted, and His people edified. This is true for those on the left as well as for those on the right end of the denominational spectrum.

Finally, there is a sense in which it is right and good for ministers of the gospel to know and care about the happenings in our fraternal denominations. As a minister of the PCA, I should care about the health and well being of the ARP and the OPC. It is not wrong to stay afloat on issues affecting the SBC.