by Stan Mitchell
There is an adage in basketball that the referee always sees the second push in a shoving match. That is often true of life, too.
I have observed even recently that when biblically conservative brethren express concern over a new and biblically unsound activity that it is the conservative who is deemed to have “caused the trouble,” or “brought about disunity.” (I understand that we don’t like labels, so if you want to substitute the label “conservative,” “progressive,” or “liberal” with a phrase or sentence to express a reality that is nonetheless there, go ahead).
But the truth is that frequently the conservatives did not push first. At the turn of the 20th century when many were introducing the piano in worship, the conservatives were often portrayed as the ones who caused the division. But please note that they were responding to a an innovation someone else had made.
“Who,” someone cries indignantly, “gave the conservative brother the right to object? Is he not being unkind to express his concern?”
I am not advocating unkindness by either side, though I also must insist that unkindness has not been the sole preserve of conservative brethren. I have read many mocking, unkind remarks from so-called “warm, kind” progressives.
Yet when a conservative says, and I will be plain here, that he is concerned about a woman leading the congregation in worship by way of a “Praise Team,” or to “Vocal Percussion” in a group singing hymns, please understand that they are responding to the first push.
To suggest that progressives (or whatever you want to call them) are innocents is disingenuous. They didn’t just come back from Mars; they know the sincerely held convictions of their brethren, and they introduced those innovations anyway.
Doctrinal disagreement is sometimes uncomfortable. It makes many ill at ease. Yet to suggest that progressives can introduce these things and conservatives do not have the right to respond is to express a double standard!
This needs to be said, because I have rarely heard it acknowledged: Frequently conservative brethren respond, not because they are angry, nor because they dislike the brethren they address, but because they care so deeply about the church and its integrity. Invariably they do so with broken hearts.
Jesus, as always, said it best:
“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment,” (John 7:24, ESV).
Next time you hear a brother express his concern, please don’t assume that it was he who pushed first.