If your congregation is like most, it does not welcome controversy, and for good reason. Controversy interferes with the sense of fellowship that churches seek and can do the congregation lasting harm. Many churches have lost members or even split apart because of a difference of opinion over matters of worship, over the selection
of a pastor, over minor points of theology, over building campaigns, over mission emphases, over biblical interpretation, over unintended slights, over approaches to a social concern, over the employment of a secretary, over...well, you get the point.
Granted, there is a healthy side to controversy. Biblical commentator Morgan P. Noyes insists that human life would be impoverished without controversy. He writes, “Controversy carried on with mutual respect, in honesty and good faith, with courtesy and humility, is democracy’s way of making up its mind.”1 Severe problems result, however, when mutual respect is not brought to the debate.
Thus, controversy ought not to be engaged in lightly in the church. While Paul did not say we are never to disagree, he warned against arguments that are “stupid and senseless” (2 Timothy 2:23). He also stated the matter positively: “Pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2:22). That remains critical advice for the church today.