Ed Stetzer: Four Ways to Put Preferences in Their Proper Place, Part 1

Everyone has their own personal preferences.

I am an 80’s guy. In fact, I like 80’s music so much so that a worship leader at a church I planted in Tennessee called me “80’s Ed.” But some people prefer music from the 90’s, or music that has just been released, or music from the 18th century. It can be tricky to balance all of those varying preferences in a church. There’s no way to please everybody when you have someone in your church who only likes to sing hymns seated next to somebody who never wants to crack open a hymnal.

But the church was never meant to cater to people’s personal preferences. We are not there as consumers of a product; instead, we are there as participators in the body of Christ. We shouldn’t demand our church to do things a certain way. Instead, we should look for ways we can let go of our favorites and sacrificially love the church.

So how do you keep preferences from becoming central to your congregation? I want to share four tips for curbing preferences. I’ll share two today and two tomorrow.

First, keep compelling your people with Scripture.

Scripture lays out the basis for our congretational life together. Too many people believe that their preferences come from Scripture, but this is often not the case.

Take music. There are no musical notes in the Bible. The closest possibility to a musical notation is the word “selah” in the Old Testament, but we don’t know what that means. As such, there is no musical preference in the Bible. Furthemore, there is no direction about what clothes you should wear in the Bible. And, there is no direction about how long a church service should be.

Now, there are things commanded in the Bible, like the public reading of scripture, the Lord’s Supper, baptism, and more. But, most things we argue about are preferences shaped by culture.

Letting Go of Preferences

What the Bible does direct us to do is to let go of our preferences. For example, Philippians 2:3-4 reads, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

If we are really considering others as more significant than ourselves, then we will not insist on our own preferences.

Because people often mistakenly believe their preferences are outlined in the Bible, they feel their preferences are truths they need to stand firm on and defend. It is true that we should defend biblical truth on essential issues. If someone is trying to change the service to de-emphasize Jesus, that’s an essential issue.

Preferences are not essential issues.

We need to be humble and loving enough to let go of our preferences for the sake of our brothers and sisters. Pointing your congregation to Scriptures like Philippians 2:3-4 and reminding them that things such as church service dress codes do not exist in the Bible is a great way to curb preferences and keep your church immersed in Scripture.

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Source: Christianity Today