A few weeks ago, I posted about a letter from Jonathan Edwards that recounts the events surrounding a change in his church’s music. If you haven’t read the letter before, you should. I love how the events of this little saga unfold in ways that are still so familiar to us in the 21st century, and further, how Mr. Root’s actions reflect the ways in which our own hearts respond to controversy. As I mulled over the implications of the letter, I found it was helpful to me to also state my initial “takeaways” in terms of specific suggestions or principles. So…

If you find yourself in a church (or para-church) environment in which you disagree with changes being made…

  1. Remember that good people making good changes occasionally do silly things (like trying out new stuff while their pastor’s out of town). Good church. Dumb move. Show grace.
  2. Remember that good people making good changes occasionally “overdo it” in their zeal (we call it pendulum-swinging). This does not, however, mean that they are wrong to make any change at all.
  3. Remember that wisdom encourages balance as Edwards did in insisting his church maintain a mix of both psalms and hymns.
  4. Simply walking out of a service in protest is generally unnecessary, unhelpful, and rude. Looking back at Mr. Root’s actions in 1744, they look rather selfish. And even if you’re not angry, you’ll likely come across that way.
  5. Don’t let your disagreements fester. Resist the urge to clam up for two years and instead talk to your brothers and sisters in Christ.
  6. Resist the urge to invoke support for your position at the cost of honesty. I doubt Mr. Root was spreading bold-faced lies, but somehow he’d convinced himself that he had an eminent personality on his side. This was probably not the case.
  7. Resist the urge to go around drumming up support for your cause, and instead just talk to that one person you’ve been avoiding. It might be a hard conversation to have, but you’ve got to have it. It’s the biblical thing to do.
  8. Don’t assume that your pastor (or other authority) actually knows what you think. This is similar to #7, but it bears repeating anyway. Your authorities probably do want to know what you’re thinking, and they can’t read your mind. So share it with them sooner rather than later.
  9. When you’re not sure who thinks what or who said what, keep a calm head and ask questions. Edwards did, and we’ll be the better for following his example.

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P.S. — Of course, there are other serious considerations to work through in situations like the above (to name just a few, “Is this an issue of scriptural fidelity?”; “Is this truly an issue that warrants me leaving the church in light of verses like Colossians 3:11?”), but I’ve limited myself here to what can be drawn from the letter.

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