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Note: This is a two-part article. Part II drops on April 15.

There is a concerning trend occurring within our denomination, which is our inability to have what Joseph Grenny calls “Crucial Conversations.” A Crucial Conversation is defined as any moment in which there are at least one of three factors at play: 

1. Strong opposing opinions, 
2. High stakes, and/or 
3. Strong emotions. 

Our denomination has been struggling with how to engage the topic of human sexuality in a way that is reflective of us walking in the way of Jesus, “…filled with grace and truth.” (John 1:14) In that way, human sexuality can be described as a topic with: strong opposing opinions, incredibly high stakes, and very strong emotions! [Can I get an “Amen!”?] 

Consider how the argument is typically framed:

  • Members who hold an affirming position are concerned with adopting a posture of Christ-like love to men and women who are made in the image and likeness of God. 
  • Members who hold to the traditional/historical position are concerned with affirming the whole truth of God. 

Both sense that the stakes are incredibly high, and that getting this wrong would create a chain of perilous events that would adversely affect the church that we love, and the people we care about. Thus, failure is not an option. 

As a result, there is a strong desire to fight for what we believe in. After all, the stakes are just so high! We’re not talking about some hypothetical topic like, ‘How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?’ We are talking about people who are made in God’s image: people with same sex attraction (or have family members with SSA), people who are affirming, people who hold traditional/historical views, single people, married people, divorced people, re-married people, people who identify as trans, people with addictions to pornography, people who are eager to talk about this topic, people who’d rather run and hide (or get a root canal) than talk about this topic. But all of us, people. And I have yet to meet a Christian in our denomination who disagrees with this statement: 

How we respond is important—not just in what we profess to believe, but how we live that out—because how we respond reflects the heart of God. 

…or, at least, it should, right?

Thus, I can understand why all members of the CRCNA are joined together in one central idea – Failure is not an option. We must get this right! 

Why, then, does it seem like the more we talk about this issue, the further divided we become?

My goal in writing this article is not to address what we believe on the topic of human sexuality, or even why (though, I think it only fair for you to know my theological view on the topic of Human Sexuality. I preached a 9-week series on this topic to my congregation in 2023. You can find that series HERE). My goal is to propose two ideas that would help us in how to move forward to have more robust, and profitable, crucial conversations for the health and vibrancy of the church we love. They are as follows:

1. A Movement Toward Micro Conversations on Worldviews over Macro Arguments on Moral Issues (which I will address here), and

2. When Macro Arguments is the only option, applying best practices to achieve a more robust ecclesiology (which is “part 2” of this post)

In this post, let's talk about Micro Conversations on Worldviews over Macro Arguments on Moral Issues.

If you listen closely to the conversations taking place in our denomination, most of them can be described as macro arguments on moral issues. For instance, these are wide ranging one-way speeches and blogs, articles and posts on behavioral issues which seek to answer questions like: ‘What’s your opinion on this? What’s your stance on that? Where do you lean on this issue?’ 

Then, what happens? We start to get really frustrated with other people saying, ‘Why don’t you view it the way I do?’ Then, we find our “tribe,” otherwise known as “people with whom we agree.”

Then, if we are not careful, we begin to condescend people with whom we disagree, saying things like: ‘They are abandoning the teachings of scripture for the sake of being nice!’ Or, ‘They don’t care about people who are made in the image and likeness of God!’ We fight and pontificate; we dehumanize our neighbor by only seeing them through "issue" at hand, and we apply ulterior motives (which is slander) to people with whom we disagree. Here’s the principle:

We are more likely to objectify our neighbor when engaging in “macro arguments about moral issues.”

So, what is the alternative? The contrast to this method is seeking to find environments where we can have micro conversations on worldviews

Our worldview is the lens through which we interpret reality, and by which we reason. It’s like a set of lenses. Have you ever seen one of those videos where someone who is color blind puts on special glasses and they are able to see color for the very first time? Those, ‘I’m not crying, you’re crying’ videos? They’re awesome! They are looking at the same things we are, but cannot see color. But they are given a different lens, and new colors spring to life! This is the reason why you and someone else (perhaps even someone from your own family) can look at the same topic and be on the opposite sides of each other on what you think is right or wrong, good or bad, moral or immoral. One person says, ‘That’s so wrong!’ And the other person says, ‘You’re wrong for thinking it’s wrong!’ They have different worldviews. Everyone is looking for answers to these questions – ‘What’s wrong with the world? And how do we go about fixing it?’

Here’s a way of thinking about this:

Different worldviews lead to
Different authorities, which result in
Different assumptions. That leads to

Different answers to questions on
Different moral issues that
Different people embrace

But, let me ask you – where do we spend the majority of our time? Isn’t it obvious? We spend almost all of our time talking about the bottom three – arguing about different answers to questions on different moral issues that different people embrace.

This is one of the most compelling reasons why the more we talk about this, the further divided we become.

So, here’s my proposal: I mean to convince you, if you are not convinced already, that these types of difficult, “crucial conversations” need to be had more frequently on a micro scale (in coffee shops, homes, or offices) talking about worldviews while humanizing the person with whom we disagree, far more than on a macro scale (behind microphones, or on social media, pontificating to the world) talking about moral issues. We need to spend far more time and energy talking about our worldviews, which leads to different authorities, which results in different assumptions…which then, and only then, leads to different answers to questions about moral issues we all face. 

Imagine you and I were at Starbucks right now. You might start by asking me, 

‘Justin, what’s your worldview? Who, or what, is your ultimate source of authority? Does that authority love you and want what’s best for you? How does your authority communicate how we should live? Where does that come from?’ 

If you are a Reformed Christian, it will probably result in us talking about the bible as the ultimate authority of our lives, and the shared commitment to treat it in such a way that when it says “Jump!” our only response is “How high?” With such a strong shared commitment to God’s Word, we now have a unique opportunity! We now get to ask each other, 

‘On this [fill in the blank] moral issue, how does scripture inform your perspective? What passages of scripture do you go to in order to reach that conclusion? Would you be willing to share with me, and I with you, on these matters in which we might disagree? But let’s commit to one another to make the Word of God the ultimate authority in these conversations. Can we do that?’ 

And then we’re off to the races for a rather robust, and exciting, conversation that has legs! We can listen to one another’s stories, experiences, and perspectives, and can even challenge one another in a way that is likely to yield good fruit.

I was able to do just that with 5 other CRC pastors a number of months ago. We were all over the map on this topic. But we simply walked through this process in a way that was dignifying, challenging and rewarding. 

Some of you are still hoping that Synod will solve, or resolve, these problems as a denomination. It won’t, but perhaps for different reasons than you might expect. It isn’t (just) because certain delegates may express things in a way that is uncharitable and unkind, which leads to hurt feelings and distrust. It isn’t (just) because there is a temptation to talk past one another in order to try and “win” some ecumenical battle. It isn’t (just) because we have strong differences of opinions on biblical interpretation. 

It won’t resolve our problems simply because of the significant limitations within any sphere where you are limited to having macro arguments about moral issues. Though not impossible, you’re more likely to successfully cut and style my hair to my preference with a lawnmower than to have a nuanced conversation at Synod. (You’re welcome for that image, by the way.) The medium is not conducive to such conversations that require such incredible nuance. 

One such story that highlights this principle is the number of men and women who professed that, while in their advisory committee sessions at Synod 2022 and 2023 there was such a strong rapport among delegates who had strong disagreements with one another. They prayed together, cried together, worshipped together, and were able to humanize one another in their unique perspectives. There was even a recent Banner Article highlighting one such advisory committee that took this posture. One member states, “[We] were primarily concerned with the need for us to examine our own hearts in this, not the need to go out with a bigger stick. I saw that posture, and I believe it.”

But, both last year and the year prior, there were a number of instances in which advisory committees had rich experiences much like what is shared above, but then, when their majority/minority reports hit the floor of synod, it felt like they stepped into another world where all the wonderful experiences they just had together were suddenly undone. Why? How is that possible? Consider:

  • One of the reasons is because the advisory committees were nuanced micro conversations, and the floor of synod is a linear macro argument about moral issues.
  • Another is the fact that the stakes were lower since their job is to give recommendations to Synod (and can even have a majority/minority report), rather than to be the final decision makers.

Perhaps all of this is obvious. Perhaps you’re thinking, ‘So, you’re saying it is easier to have a nuanced conversation with one person in a coffee shop than it is with 196 people at Synod. You’re a genius! What are you saying, Justin? Should we just tear down Synod and not meet like that anymore?’ 

Some days I might feel that way (I joke), but that is not what I am proposing here. We will also look at that question more fully in the corresponding Part II post (coming soon!). What I am saying here is this: 

We ought to resolve in our mind that, wherever possible, our goal is to have to have micro conversations on worldviews first and most, and to have macro arguments on moral issues least and last. 

If we truly love our neighbor as ourselves, we will not wield the truth as a sword to tear down men and women with whom we disagree, but as a gift that brings light and life to all who listen. Thus, we will begin to ask ourselves questions like, ‘If I were them and they were me, how would I want them to treat me? What sort of conversations would I hope that they have with me? How would I want them to communicate that message?’ I think you would conclude, as I have, that that you would do everything in your power to hear and understand, and to humanize your neighbor with whom you disagree, and share with them in a way they can hear it, rather than to have a simple desire to be ‘right.’ 

I like to tell my congregation, “If you say the right thing the wrong way you’re dead wrong.” With respect to Crucial Conversations where there are strong opposing opinions, high stakes, and strong emotions, telling the truth is vital, but if it's transformation you’re after, it will take a concerted effort to embody the gospel, not just know it. Commit, wherever possible, to micro conversations on worldviews as opposed to macro arguments on moral issues.  


I suspect that Satan and his demons (Screwtape, etc.) are just as happy if they get us to argue about "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin"  OR if we spend many, many hours discussing human sexuality.  Neither of the discussions or arguments will help to bring the good news of salvation to those who are lost!      John Duifhuis

I question your positioning of the two sides of the issue.  Wouldn't it be true that we are all are "concerned with adopting a posture of Christ-like love to men and women who are made in the image and likeness of God."  This is not the position of only those who seek to hold an "affirming position" whatever that will mean because it will mean different things to different people.    To love someone with Christ-like love does not necessarily imply an affirmation of sin in someone's life.  Where we seem to disagree is what it means to display a posture of love.  I agree these kinds of conversations need to happen in intimate and smaller contexts where we can look together at scripture and wrestle with God rather than against one another.

I certainly don't dispute that. I am seeking to convey the way this conversation is typically framed, which is also why it quickly devolves. We often apply ulterior motives to people with whom we disagree, or we may even mischaracterize their actual stance (or oversimplify it). I suppose I could have made that more clear but, as noted above, my goal in writing this article is not to address what we believe on the topic of human sexuality, or even why. My goal is to propose two ideas that would help us in how to move forward to have more robust, and profitable, crucial conversations for the health and vibrancy of the church we love. So, my goal wasn't as much to articulate the intricacies of the arguments, but to challenge readers to use different methods when engaging in said arguments in a way that would lead to greater communication and understanding. If anything, our little chat here helps support that argument (due in no small part because of my inability to convey that more clearly. :D) 

Thanks for the note, Tim.

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