This past September I started a class (audit, not credit) at the brand new Great Northern University. I took the class for a few reasons.
For one, I serve on the board of trustees, so I felt taking a class would put me right in the middle of school activity. Also, it was a way to have some interaction with GNU students. Finally, learning something new is never a bad idea!
So, on Tuesday afternoons I drive over to Spokane for the Foundations of Leadership class taught by the school’s president, Dr. Wendy Liddell.
It’s been a good experience. What strikes me each week is how the students, typically 18 or 19, are just dipping their toes into the subject of leadership. In most ways what is taught in class is just theory for them. They haven’t been able to apply the lessons in the “laboratory of life.”
In contrast, I sit in class thinking about all the life situations I’ve been in that fit whatever the prof is talking about! It sometimes makes me feel like the weathered sailor who’s sailed every sea and been in every port.
I’m thankful the students have a class like this, because much of what I have learned about leadership dynamics has come by way of experience and hard knocks.
One recent lesson I really appreciated was a lecture on how to handle disagreements, particularly in a church or business setting.
Overall, we should always be pursuing unity as much as we can.
But there are instances where unity is tested and stretched.
In a small number of situations, unity appears impossible.
In class we learned that when we disagree with others, we can respond appropriately in four different ways:
Some things we die over.
These are the core, non-negotiable, immovable beliefs or values of which we cannot and will not budge.
One thing our teacher said about this category is that we ought to have a fairly short list.
People who die over every disagreement usually don’t have a job or any friends!
Some things we divide over.
These things may not be as serious as our “die list,” but at the same time we know that we cannot continue to work in such a situation.
A good example might be the time Paul and Barnabas went separate ways over whether to bring John Mark on their missions trip.
Here’s how Acts 15:36-41 describes their parting:
Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
Yet Paul and Barnabas were still co-laborers and brothers in Christ. But in that season, they felt they couldn’t work together.
Some things we debate about
They aren’t enough for us to divide, but they remain a topic of ongoing conversation.
The truth is we all have things to learn, no matter our station in life.
The Bible says that “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
So, there are times to take a topic of which people hold different perspectives and work it through.
This point makes me think about the discussion that took place in the Jerusalem church regarding the acceptance of Gentiles. The debate went forth, and out of it emerged a resolve.
Some things we agree to disagree upon
Imagine a world where we all thought the same way. It would be awfully boring!
There is room for holding a disagreement without dying, dividing or debating.
If it’s not that important of a matter, we choose to allow one another the freedom to hold their view.
Sometimes we need these types of categories to sort our our struggles, don’t we?
Not all disagreements are one-size-fits-all. Which means we can respond accordingly to the level of disagreement.
What a great lesson for all of us GNU students to take in!