Is Dissent Good for the Church?

“The reality is we need dissent. Without dissent society would come to a halt; we wouldn’t change or create or innovate,” says Carsten de Dreu, a professor at the University of Amsterdam who specializes in the role of dissent within organizations. But “these dissenters are despised or ignored or persecuted by the majority.”

A few days ago, a friend of mine sent me an article.  It is called “In Praise of Dissent.”

She said she thought of me.

Dissent is tricky. In others, it is usually only laudable in hindsight…after they been shown to be right. And I rarely even like my own dissent. Sometimes I wish I could just get with the program. And the guilt of feeling outside the circle of assent when holding tightly to a dissenting opinion is rarely pleasant.

However, the whole time I am reading, thoughts on the need for dissent in the church, local and Universal are flying through my mind with sonic boom inflicting speed. Not because the dissenter is always right. But, for the very reason, we pastors could easily fall victim to seeing dissenters as only troublemakers. Blinded by our visions, dreams and possibly groupthink, ignoring dissent becomes the shortest distance between two points. Veering off this line extends meetings and derails progress.

So what do you think? Is there a place for dissent in the church? Where? What are it’s limits? Dangers? Benefits? Do you have any stories where dissent was helpful?

2 thoughts on “Is Dissent Good for the Church?

  1. Southern Cheesehead September 7, 2010 / 2:45 pm

    Boy to I have a story of dissent in the church. It's too fresh to know if it was helpful yet, but I pray that it is for them. I pray that they take it and learn from it and seek God's face for what needs to change there…we seriously pray that every day.As far as for hubs and me…it has been helpful for us already even though we're only 7 weeks removed from it. It is pushing us out of our comfort zone and into something that we have considered doing and prayed about off and on for 8 years but never felt the timing was right…or maybe just didn't have the faith and spiritual guts to do it. Now we're being forced to do it.It's been helpful, but also hurtful, painful and heartbreaking. It was honestly almost like going through a death…we went through the same stages of grief (some still currently) that we went through when we lost my dad 8 1/2 years ago. I believe that all of these things are for the greater good though because I know that everything happens for a reason and isn't lost in God's economy which is comforting to us. It will make us better people, daily ministers and vocational ministers in our next ministry.It was not the way that I would have chosen, but I am hard headed most times and I believe looking back that it took the dissention…something major and dramatically attnetion grabbing to make us understand. Be careful when you pray for CLEAR direction! 🙂

  2. Charles September 7, 2010 / 11:50 pm

    My thought is that yes, there’s a place for dissent in every institution, including the church. It’s a shame that it ever has to happen, but it would be worse if it never happened at all (the Reformation, for example). But I picture dissention in the church not as a picketing demonstration, or a loud outcry, but a gentle, respectful, private exchange between the people sharing the concern and the dissented-against. “Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.” 1. Cor 13:1. If the concerned people are persuaded by the Word that their concern is justified, and are ignored or shrugged off by the leadership, then maybe their concern should be made more widely known. Or they should leave. Or both. I guess it depends on the circumstances. The danger(s), I think, is that you may cause weaker brothers/sisters to stumble. And that you may treat your leaders in an unfitting way. That’s why I think it should be kept private, and gentle. The potential benefits seem obvious. If the dissenters have a legitimate concern, maybe they’ll be heard, maybe there’ll be repentance, and maybe unity will be restored.

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