Pastor Kent Simmons

Sometimes there are no easy answers as much as we would like to have them. When a family member or friend dies unexpectedly, we cannot help but want answers. We mourn in disbelief when we see random acts of violence perpetrated on the innocent among us and ask why such things happen. We shake our heads at the nonsensical affronts to basic intellect and marvel at such utterances when we hear people say ridiculous things like, “That’s my truth”. Even the truth is no longer easy.

Easy answers are not always available in church issues as well. This perhaps explains why so many churches exist with various doctrines, church policies, and theological perspectives.

Let me illustrate with a few examples.

One question I routinely field is the question of roles for women in ministry especially as related to any form of authority over the men of church. Of course, this issue is the result of explicit remarks made by New Testament writers such as the Apostle Paul. “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent,” is one such example of the exclusiveness of men in the highest offices of the church.

What is the church to make of this remark? Should it be a literal understanding viewed as a transcendent truth or was it a contextual, cultural issue of the first century alone? Is this admonition a truism or should the church interpret it differently? If a non-literal explanation is offered, then are those who advocate for a different understanding simply rationalizing a principle that they find undesirable?

Another example is the question of inclusiveness for members in our community who are within the LGBTQ+. Some would argue that both the Old and New Testaments are clear in the exclusion of such people to a church fellowship. Other’s would say, ironically, that the Apostle Paul teaches differently when he states that, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” I say “ironically” because Paul seems to exclude women in certain scriptural passages and at the same time says that God’s view of humanity is egalitarian in others.

Other questions, that there is simply not enough space for here, are related to tithing, birth control, war, scriptural inerrancy, social responsibility, and end time’s studies.

Here is what I recommend for these though issues.

First, maintain an open mind. Even if our convictions are Biblically sound, listen to others whose understanding is different than your own. When religious groups come to my door on evenings or weekends, if I have time, I always hear them out. The reason is this, metal sharpens metal. When I can articulate my beliefs in an intelligent, cogent, manner, I am surer of what I stand for. It also forces me to think, to ponder, and to search, with diligence, for the rational reasons for my belief system.

Second, if you are on the theological high ground, your counsel may persuade others of the rightfulness of your position. Become an apologetic influencer by being well prepared for questions and objections. Few will listen to someone who says, “Believe me I know what I’m talking about,” without offering any credible evidence for that assertion.

Finally, remember to use solid reasoning for your position that is consistent with the Bible as a whole. Proof-texting any document will undoubtedly make your point, but have you really proven anything if you missed the spirit or context of what was intended? You must be student of your belief and avoid pontificating for personal gain.

People of faith, more than ever, must be able to respond to cultural mores in a manner that shows due diligence in thoughtfulness.

That answer seems easy enough.

Kent Simmons is the pastor of Canyon Community Church in Kingman, AZ.